You may be at your wit’s end divorcing a narcissistic spouse, husband or wife.
It is not easy. But look at it this way. You only have to deal with one while our Orange County divorce attorneys have the experience of dealing with plenty over the years that we have practiced family law.
Divorcing a narcissist spouse does not have to mean that you have to suffer through a miserable divorce or that you have to accept a result that is not consistent with the law. There are proper ways to deal with such spouses who are deceptive, have serious anger management issues and take out those issues on you and the children, or are intent on driving up your legal fees.
This is part one of a two-part article. In this article, we are going to discuss how to deal with divorcing a narcissist spouse if you are the lower-income earner.
Part II will be published later in the week. In Part II, we will look at divorcing a narcissist spouse from the perspective of the higher earner spouse.
Let’s talk about some of the things you can do during the divorce case with your family law attorney to reign your spouse in and get a fair result in court.
Divorcing a narcissist spouse who is the higher income earner
Divorcing a narcissist spouse who is the higher income earner means you are likely up against bullying and intimidation. This can be especially true if you have been a long time homemaker, stay at home mom or earn very little income. These tactics generally involve financial abuse and include the following:
1. Failing to provide complete responses to discovery: Discovery is the formal request for information and documents regarding the marital estate. This tactic forces you, as the lesser income earner, to file a request with the court to compel the information you need and therefore incur attorney fees that should be avoided.
2. Failing to pay support or delaying it: Failing to pay support or delaying it is a way to exert control. It comes in many forms and includes unlawful deductions from support that were not court ordered.
3. Hiding income and assets: Narcissistic spouses sometimes feel as though they money they have made during the marriage is theirs and everything that has come from it should be their separate property. That’s not the law. California community property law defines what is and is not community property and separate property but try to explain that to a spouse like this…it may be futile.
All of these are intimidation tactics. All of these tactics are designed to cause the maximum amount of stress and attorney fees so that the lesser earning spouse eventually gives in and takes less than what he or she may be entitled to from the community estate.
There’s a right way and a very wrong way to respond to such bullying tactics.
The wrong way and unfortunately the typical way by many spouses is to respond in kind, especially in high asset divorce cases – meet unreasonable and aggressive behavior with unreasonable and aggressive behavior. This “fight fire with fire” approach when divorcing a narcissist spouse may be one of the worst things you can do in a divorce case because you essentially lower yourself to the same standard implemented by your spouse and therefore cause the litigation to go longer than it should. You also lose credibility because when the Orange County family court law judge wants to make a decision, he or she frowns on your conduct as well as that of your spouse and both of you lose credibility in front of the court.
Being unreasonable, using counter intimidation tactics, using children as leverage in a divorce or taking unrealistic expectations into the process often does not get results. It just causes more unnecessary stress and aggravation.
Instead, you can combat the narcissistic spouse with a simple and systematic approach – use your narcissist spouse’s conduct against him or her.
When a narcissist spouse fails or refuses to cooperate in providing financial information, California law allows you to compel him or her to provide the information. These motions to compel as they are sometimes called alert the court of your spouse’s lack of cooperation and ask the court to make orders consistent with California liberal discovery laws. California law also gives the court the discretion to monetarily sanction the unreasonable spouse for the attorneys fees and costs of the spouse who was forced to bring a motion to compel. This can be a powerful deterrent because you will have turn the spouse’s uncooperative conduct against him or her by having him or her pay your fees if the judge agrees with your position
If your narcissist husband or wife fails to pay support that is lawfully due, you have many options available to you. While family law contempt proceedings (which can be criminal in nature and could cause the non-paying spouse to be sentenced to jail) are one option, others include a garnishment of wages, levying of bank accounts and even asking the court for security instruments to ensure the payment of ongoing support.
If you are the low earning spouse, you also have the option available to you of filing an attorney fee motion based on your need and your spouse’s ability to pay and/or based on Family Code section 271 which sanctions an unreasonable spouse.
Divorcing a narcissist spouse doesn’t have to be a nightmare. There are steps you can take to keep your case on track and get a fair result. Contact us to discuss your case. We are here to help and offer an affordable initial strategy session for those with matters in Orange County, California. You can reach us at (714) 937-1193 or, for those in South Orange County, contact us at (949) 616-3772.
Related articles you will enjoy
Here are some additional articles and guides we think you will enjoy. The link for each article or guide is below.
- First, we have written an amazing guide for mothers who are in a custody battle or think they may face one. It has over 50 custody battle tips for mothers, all of which is from our extensive family law experience.
- The second article is about a question we get asked a lot – how much does a divorce cost?
- And don’t forget to read Part II of divorcing a narcissist spouse.