How to Do Divorce Mediation with a Narcissist

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Divorce is difficult on families even in the best of circumstances, but when one party has narcissistic personality disorder, reaching an agreement on issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property distribution can be a very difficult .

The divorce mediation lawyers at Schwartz, Fox and Saltzman (“SFS”) explain why people with narcissistic tendencies complicate the divorce process, how divorce mediation works with a narcissist, how a divorce mediator works with a narcissist, and how you do divorce mediation with a narcissist successfully.

If you suspect your partner has narcissistic traits and you are getting a divorce, you need help finding solutions. SFS Attorneys are ready to help you mediate the issues arising from divorce and find mutually agreeable solutions that are right for your family. Call us today to get started.

How Narcissists Complicate Divorce

Like the Greek god Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, those with narcissistic personality disorder are obsessed with themselves. Narcissists believe the world revolves around them and care only for their own well-being and happiness. They may be obsessed with how others perceive them or their status.

The most relevant trait of those with narcissistic personality disorder in divorce is they lack empathy for others. At best, they are indifferent to the needs of others, which can include their own children. At worst, they consider their spouse and children a reflection of themselves and may manipulate them for their own gain.

A Brief Explanation of Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which can result in a faster, less expensive divorce than litigation. With the help of an experienced divorce mediation lawyer, the parties come to an agreement on child custody (both legal custody and physical custody), support, and property distribution. The divorce mediation lawyer submits the parties’ agreements, including the custody arrangement if applicable, to the family court, which memorializes them in the final judgment of divorce.

Unique Challenges in Dealing with a Narcissist During Mediation

Lack of empathy and self absorption are not the least of the hindrances to coming to an agreement with a narcissist in divorce mediation. A narcissist is likely to view mediation as a contest or a game they must win, and they may be inflexible. An experienced divorce mediator will attempt to work around this tendency by strategically re-framing issues so someone determined to get a certain result may become open to compromise.

Going Through Divorce Mediation with a Narcissist

Mediating the issues arising from divorce is uniquely challenging when one of the parties has narcissistic tendencies. You need a divorce mediation lawyer who has experience working with people with narcissistic issues, and you need a strategy to ensure your voice gets heard and you get the best result for your family.

Tips on Preparing for a Successful Divorce or Child Custody Mediation with a Narcissist

There are certain strategies you should keep in mind if you are divorcing a person with narcissistic behavior, both to get the best results for your family, keep the best interests of your child at the forefront, and to maintain your peace of mind. Preparing for custody mediation with a narcissist involves specific strategies for working around the tendencies of the narcissistic parent. These strategies work for both custody and divorce mediation with a narcissist, so work with your mediator to ensure a successful outcome.

1. Limit Interaction Outside of Mediation

If possible, avoid interacting with your spouse while you are not in mediation. Without the presence and influence of your divorce mediator, they may try to bully you or manipulate you into capitulating to their demands.

2. Avoid Playing Their Game

A person with narcissistic issues views divorce mediation or child custody disputes as a battle or a game to win or lose, with no middle ground. Do not react to their lack of flexibility. Let the divorce mediator do their job in guiding your spouse to possible acceptable solutions to the issues arising from divorce.

3. Try to Stay Calm

Someone with narcissistic tendencies loves to control others and will attempt to bully, manipulate, or otherwise goad you into an emotional response. Recognize this for what it is and refuse to take the bait. Let your divorce mediation lawyer interact with your spouse. 

4. Document Everything

If your spouse is behaving poorly outside divorce mediation, be sure to keep a log of it. For example, if your spouse is depleting the joint bank account, trying to influence your children against you, failing to pay joint bills they have responsibility for, or any other selfish acts, you must document the occurrence and bring it up in divorce mediation. It may be that not every issue arising from your divorce can be resolved through mediation, and you want to have a record of your spouse’s behavior if you must go to court.

Finding a Divorce Mediator

You must be comfortable disclosing and discussing very personal issues with your divorce mediation lawyer, so be sure to determine that when you meet with them initially. During your first meeting, a good divorce mediator lawyer explains the mediation process, asks you both what you are having trouble agreeing on, and gets a sense of whether divorce mediation is a possible solution for you.

If you are divorcing someone you suspect has issues with narcissism, call the experienced divorce mediation lawyers at SFS Attorneys for help. We have been helping families in the Philadelphia area through divorce for over forty years. We can help you too.

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