How Do You Successfully Divorce a Covert or Malignant Narcissist?

These are proven divorce litigation tactics that break a narcissist's will to fight

Close to everything you read on the internet about divorcing a narcissist is wrong

There is so much bad information on the internet from uninformed lawyers who pretend to understand narcissism and therapists who pretend to understand divorce litigation.

Skip the nonsense. This is not that.

This is one of our guides that gives you proven litigation tactics that work inside and outside the courtroom.

The tactics are proven because we use them in the divorce cases we handle. We know they work because we see it work.

Our guide will show you how to divorce a narcissist, show the narcissist's lies, punish the narcissist's misconduct, and succeed.

All of it is based on experience in the trenches of divorce litigation.

Your narcissistic spouse cannot control you or the divorce process unless you allow your spouse to do so.

You have more power than you realize. And it starts with understanding the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Words how to divorce a narcissist


DSM IV refers to impaired self-functioning and "excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation."

It also refers to "exaggerated self-appraisal" (exaggerated through inflation or deflation), setting goals based on gaining approval from others, and personal standards that are either too high or too low.

The "high" is so the narcissist can see himself or herself as exceptional.

The low is based on a sense of entitlement because the narcissist sets a low standard for his or her own conduct to be acceptable while setting a hypocritically high standard for others.

DSM V speaks to a lack of empathy in various contexts and the superficial way a narcissist views relationships to serve and regulate the narcissist's own self-esteem.

DSM V echoes much of what DSM IV states regarding grandiosity, self-centeredness, and the high level of attention seeking characteristic by narcissists.

- From the E-Book, Divorcing a Narcissist, The Path to Growth and Freedom

A visual guide to divorcing a narcissist

For those of you who are visual learners, here is an informational graphic. But do not stop there. Keep reading for a detailed explanation of each step, and more.

Infographic on steps to divorce a narcissist


PART 1:

The Covert Narcissist

In fiction, they call this person Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In your life, it is your spouse.

Ready to learn more about someone you already know?

The covert narcissist is the monster full of fake charm

A covert narcissistic spouse is the one who is both Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is the one other men and women who are not close to the narcissist see.

Mr. Hyde is the one you know - an evil character whose expertise is gaslighting.

Lots of practice made the covert narcissist persuasive to others

A covert narcissist is a different person among those who are close to him versus those who are not.

He or she may come across as a completely different human being among casual friends versus that of his or her family. In that respect, the covert is dual personality whose real character comes out to those who are around him most.

Divorcing a covert narcissistic spouse takes a tactical approach

If the approach you take to divorcing a covert narcissist is the same as any other divorce, you will find the process miserable and likely unsuccessful.

By the way, that is what many lawyers do even though they try to talk a good game.

That is why we emphasize the importance of choosing the right divorce attorney for the job. You must take a tactical approach, one that disarms the narcissist before defeating him or her.

What we write applies to the malignant narcissist

What we write here applies to the malignant narcissist. The malignant narcissist often crosses over into the sociopath or psychopath spectrum.

Malignant narcissists are dangerous people. They are the belligerent and abusive characters who do not try to hide it.

They can be scary if you do not know how to deal with them. Watching them fall flat on their face during divorce is one of the great joys in what we do for a living.

All narcissistic spouses want one thing

They want their spouse to give up. That is right. If your spouse is a covert or malignant narcissist, he or she wants you to give up and be their pawn.

That surrender means the narcissist won, using their own tortured interpretation of victory.

Very few things will frustrate a narcissistic spouse more than their spouse who says "no" and refuses to accept less than what the law mandates.

We discuss the importance of "no" below. Get used to that word. You will say it a lot.

Why do we care about your spouse's narcissist behavior?

We care for only one reason. We want to get you through this in the most tactical and effective way.

If we did not care about the means and the end, we would not care about your spouse's personality.

Narcissistic behavior changes expectations during a divorce

That is the bottom line. You cannot walk into a divorce with a narcissist expecting the process to be the same as any other divorce.

It will not be the same.

Any divorce attorney who tells you differently or downplays the importance of a spouse's narcissistic personality disorder in the divorce process is either ignorant or inexperienced...and probably both.

The style we author this article about how to divorce a narcissist is different

We will be direct. We do not write in ten sentences what we can communicate in three.

PART 2:

The Physically and Emotionally Abusive Narcissist

When lack of anger management meets a Cluster B personality disorder, abuse follows.

Here is what you do about it.

Your narcissistic spouse likes to push and hit - here is how you hit back

Get a restraining order and do not back down after you file

Personality disorder means little if the narcissist is physically abusive.

Get a restraining order and get the longest one the judge will give you. The family law court system helps victims of domestic violence.

California has come a long way in the past twenty years. Access to justice for domestic violence victims is more available now than ever before.

If you think a high conflict personality who physically abused you is not a danger to your personal safety, you do not value your personal safety or you are out of touch with reality.

Keep your physical and emotional distance

  • There is no need to communicate with the narcissist. If you have children together, there are internet programs and applications that allow focused, limited communication that is necessary. We will introduce those to you.
  • Do not be around the narcissist. Do not invest time asking or wondering what the narcissist is doing or saying about you. You make yourself a mental prisoner when you do that.
  • Forget co-parenting with a narcissistic spouse who is physically and/or emotionally abusive. It is not practical.
  • If the narcissist engages in misconduct, contact your attorney. Otherwise, keep your physical and emotional distance.
  • The goal is not to let the narcissistic spouse take control of the divorce process. You remain in control because you ensure the misconduct does not go unpunished.

Emotionally abusive narcissists are bullies and cowards, but they have no power over you

  • Become a good stoic. The narcissist has no power over you.
  • The narcissist does not make you angry. You choose to feel anger.
  • The narcissist does not stress you out. You choose to inflict yourself with that stress.
  • The only power the narcissist has is the power you give the narcissist.

In the immortal words of the late Dr. Viktor Frankl (the man survived Auschwitz, so he knew more than all of us about this subject):


Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

- The Late Dr. Viktor Frankl

Seek therapy because you need it and it will give you the tools to thrive

A quality mental health professional can give you the tools to recover from the emotional abuse and avoid further emotional abuse.

You have health insurance. Use it.

The narcissistic spouse is full of grandiose self-importance. That is the unhealthy version.

Your self-importance is your realization that you matter, and you can and will take ownership of your choices, which you are free to make.

When you free yourself of the narcissist's control, you realize your spouse never had control.

The control you thought your spouse had was the one you gave up, not the one your narcissistic spouse took.

PART 3:

The Narcissist Who Financially Abuses You

It is all about the money. The narcissist will tell you that to your face but will lie to everyone else about it.

Financially abusive narcissists think it is their money and only theirs

When you divorce a narcissist who is the higher earning spouse or has a greater access to money, that money becomes a weapon. Expect the narcissist to use it.

That is because the narcissistic spouse sees that money as "his" or "hers" and certainly not something in which you should share.

Narcissists do not "share" willingly (their parents did not teach it to them or they never learned it) and they often thrive by taking advantage of others, especially those who are closest to them.

Be proactive about your right of access to money

You have a need for support. Seek support, whether that is child support, spousal support, or both.

Do not assume the narcissist will do the right thing. That is dumb.

The odds are heavily against it. You have the right to temporary support while the divorce is pending.

Do you have a need for money to pay a family law attorney? Hire a family law attorney to file an attorney fee request for order. This is not a war of attrition.

California law and our court system is clear that family courts have a duty to avoid a war of attrition

Learn about your rights pursuant to Family Code 2030, 2031 and 2032. We link to a guide on this issue.

Seek sanctions against the narcissist's misconduct

Family Code 271 is a code section that punishes bad behavior.

It is only one of several.

If the narcissist engages in litigation conduct that unnecessarily increases attorney's fees or causes unreasonable delays, you have options.

If the narcissist breaches his or her fiduciary duties to you on financial issues, the law gives you specific remedies.

PART 4:

Children Are the Narcissistic Parent's Leverage

For the covert or malignant narcissist, children are a means to an end. They are leverage.

You know this already. Here is what you do about it.

Your children are too important to allow a covert or malignant narcissist to raise them

Stop worrying about what the narcissist "wants", "says" or "feels"

Narcissists love being the center of attention. Therefore, when you talk about, think about, and worry about what the narcissist wants, says or feels, you give the narcissist power.

Stop doing it. The only person who should care about such garbage is the narcissist.

Place your singular focus on the children's best interest when divorcing a narcissist

Nothing matters other than the children's health, safety, education and general welfare.

Learn to say "no" when divorcing a narcissist

  • The narcissist wants something from you. The request is not reasonable. The answer is no.
  • Make it a clear no without lamenting, feeling guilt or spending hours thinking about it. It is simply no.

This is important for several reasons. One reason you may forget is your spouse is going to become your narcissistic ex-spouse. You are going through a divorce, right?

Saying no to unreasonable requests will eventually cause your ex to stop asking, hopefully before he or she becomes the "ex."

Learn about parallel parenting

You should read our guide on parallel parenting. It is the alternative to co-parenting, which rarely works against a narcissistic spouse.

If you do not know what parallel parenting is, prepare to have your eyes opened.

PART 5:

The Narcissist's Unreasonable Child or Spousal Support Requests Must Fail

First, turn on your brain.

Second, make a commitment to focus on the facts and the law.

Third, do the following...

You need the narcissist's financial support so what are you waiting for? Get it!

Find out what your spouse should pay and seek exactly that.

An experienced and skilled family law attorney should tell you what to expect in child and/or spousal support.

Once you know the amount and the family law attorney tells you the window is open to seek it, go for it.

If you spend weeks or month negotiating with the narcissist, you may find weeks or months of wasted time.

File the contempt action when your spouse violates the court order

Did your spouse not pay the support? Your family law attorney should write your spouse or his or her lawyer a letter.

Did it happen again? File the contempt action. Few things get a narcissist sweating like facing fines, community service or jail time.

What if you are the higher earning spouse?

Find out what you should pay and pay it. If you do not feel it is fair, get over it.

Family law does not focus on fairness. Somebody always thinks something is unfair.

Delay payment and you may find yourself paying the same amount after spending thousands of dollars in attorney's fees.

Is that better? No, it is not. All you did was delay the inevitable.

Ignore the narcissist's delusional cries of injustice

Nothing you pay will be fair. That is how a narcissist who is the lower earning spouse may believe. Therefore, ignore the whining and other noise.

The law requires you to pay a sum of money. That is what you pay, nothing more, because nothing you pay will ever be enough to satisfy someone who wants you broke and hurt.

PART 6:

Make the Narcissist Make a Commitment

Unless you like spending years going through a divorce, make the narcissist commit to his or her community and separate property claims.

And once you do, use what we lay out below to get the right result the law requires.

When the assets are community property, the process gets easier

Discover early what everyone should get and make settlement offers.

Once you have all the facts you need to divide community property, get aggressive with settlement communication.

You are doing this to attempt settlement and set up the narcissist for an attorney's fee request if he or she rejects the reasonable offer.

Focus on solutions when the narcissist wants to focus on problems

The more there are problems, the more the narcissist has a means to voice manufactured grievances. You do not focus on problems. You focus on solutions.

Collaborate with your lawyer and if there is an issue that needs addressing, then address it. Do not procrastinate. Either resolve it or go to court.

Divorce against a narcissist is not like wine. It does not improve with age.

How to divorce a narcissist when you have separate property claims to assets

The asset is your separate property. You have facts, evidence and the law on your side. What do you do?

Make your spouse admit or deny the validity of your separate property claims

The discovery tool is called a request for admissions. There are two types.

  1. One type requires your spouse to admit or deny the truthfulness of a fact.
  2. The other type requires him or her to admit to the genuineness of certain documents.

These are powerful tools when divorcing a narcissist.

If your spouse denies the truthfulness of the facts and you later at a hearing or trial prove the truthfulness of that fact or facts, you can seek attorney's fees against your spouse for the cost to you of proving that fact.

That is not the only way to seek fees. It is however one of the most powerful ways.

Avoid waiving attorney's fees if the narcissist unreasonably increased your fees

  • If you incurred significant attorney's fees, do not walk away from your claims.
  • There is a time and place for settlement and compromise and the courthouse steps may not be it.
  • You can still settle the issues, but that settlement does not mean you walk away from your fee request.
  • If the narcissist makes that waiver a condition of the settlement, speak with your attorney and assess the likelihood of winning.
  • You are 95% to the finish line anyway, right? What is the harm of going the extra 5%? That is what you need to evaluate.

How to divorce a narcissist with his or her separate property claims

Flush out the facts and evidence in support of the narcissist's separate property claims.

If your spouse is right, concede the separate property claim.

That requires him or her to have the facts and law on his or her side and therefore have admissible evidence in support of his or her position.

This is not a decision you can make without the right family law attorney. We exist for a reason.

PART 7:

The Narcissist Can Run, But the Narcissist Cannot Hide

Do you know what a narcissistic spouse hates more than anything else? If you guessed "being transparent", you are dead on right.

That is what the disclosure and discovery process is all about.

And here is what you do when your narcissistic spouse shuns the transparency.

What if your spouse refuses to serve accurate or complete disclosures?

Disclosures are not discretionary. Both you and your spouse must exchange them. If the narcissist decides not to serve the disclosure, act.

File the motion to compel accurate and complete disclosures

California Family Code gives you the right to file a request that compels your spouse to serve complete and accurate disclosures.

The odds of you getting back the attorney's fees you spent on that request are good. The code section specifically allows for it.

File the evidentiary, issue or terminating sanctions when appropriate

If your spouse still does not comply after the court order file a request for some or all the above sanctions.

These shut the narcissist out of the courtroom and do not allow him or her to admit evidence. The terminating sanction removes your spouse from the process.

How to divorce a narcissist who refuses to cooperate in the discovery process

Here is the systematic approach:

  1. Conduct a cost versus benefit analysis.
  2. Are there alternatives to getting the information?
  3. If not, file the motion to compel response or further responses and seek your attorney's fees.
  4. File the evidentiary, issue or terminating sanctions if your spouse does not comply with the court order.


Collage of the firm's family law attorneys

It is time to choose your divorce lawyer. Be smart about it.

Here is your checklist.

  1. Be careful of those ignorant of how divorcing a narcissist changes the divorce proceeding. Those divorce lawyers are the ones who give poor legal advice, or no advice at all.
  2. Be careful of those who pretend to know how to handle a divorce against a narcissist.
  3. Be careful of any divorce attorney who plays to your emotions.
  4. Vet the divorce attorney's experience, intelligence and candor.
  5. Be realistic about your financial ability to afford litigation. Legal advice includes managing expectations and that management includes legal fees.

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