Divorcing a Spouse Who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The Law OfficesDisclaimer: I have no psychological training or experience. This article is based solely on my experience as a family law attorney.

Fact Pattern:

Jennifer who was 32 years of age, just went through a nasty divorce and is now a single mom with two young children. Although she has not worked for the past ten years, she obtains a job at a bank which she finds terribly boring. She and the children had to move out of their home after it was sold and Jennifer is now renting an apartment which she finds very depressing. Recently she met one of the bank customers, Brian, who owns a successful consulting company. He is tall and handsome. Jennifer was shocked and ecstatic when he asked her out for dinner. After only a few months, Brian asked Jennifer to marry him. He has been wonderful to her children, buying them toys, taking them to Chuck-e-Cheese and the children adore him. He is everything their father is not. He owns a 4,000-square foot home with over an acre of land for the children to play in. He even put together a lavish swing set for them in his back-yard. He has promised Jennifer she will never have to work again and he will take care of her and her children.

Fast forward 10 years. Jennifer is 42 years of age and her children are teens plus she has another two other children with Brian. Life as she had hoped turned into a nightmare. Nothing she did was ever good enough. Brian put her on a budget and she had to give him receipts for everything she purchased, including groceries. He had cameras installed in the house to watch her, had a GPS on her car and constantly monitored her email and cell phone records to see who she was calling. They went to marriage counseling but Brian convinced the counselor that all of their relationship problems were Jennifer’s fault, not his. If she could only change, their marriage would be great.

Jennifer was suffering from depression and was taking medication. She finally decided she and the children needed to get away from Brian, but how? She started looking for townhouse rentals and found one in the same neighborhood. Although all their accounts were titled in Brian’s name, they had a joint line of credit on the house. She negotiated with the owner of the townhouse to pay the lease in advance for one year which came to $30,000.00. This would be paid on the day she moved in.

When Brian left for a business trip, Jennifer arranged for movers to pack and move them out. On the day Jennifer moved out, her attorney filed for divorce based on constructive desertion. Her attorney also advised her to make copies of all financial documents she could obtain and bring them to her office.

Obviously, there are degrees of narcissism and one size does not fit all.

Some generalizations:

Narcissists have to win and they do not take “no” for an answer. They can be very charismatic and know how to play the victim with friends and family.

Think about how the narcissist treats business adversaries, as you are now his/her main enemy.

The narcissist will delay the process of divorce as long as possible to keep control over you.

Many times, the narcissist will use the children as pawns to punish you.


Get counseling. You are not going to change your spouse but you can change how you respond to him/her.

Do not trust your spouse as he/she will lie to you and stab you in the back.

Get everything in writing and signed. Verbal agreements are meaningless to your spouse.

Focus on the issues that are important, your children and financial stability. If your spouse wants the pots and pans, give them to him/her. You can buy new ones.

Be sure to retain an attorney you trust and who listens to your concerns.

Be sure your attorney issues discovery and analyses the discovery responses. You may need to retain a financial planner or a forensic accountant if funds are being hidden.

Consider retaining a retired judge to mediate. If your spouse refuses and insists on going to trial, be prepared that he/she will take you back to court every couple of years until he/she “wins.” When testifying, most narcissists come across as arrogant and superior to everyone in the courtroom, including the Judge.

Stay tuned for Jennifer’s journey….

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