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In your dealings with a personality-disordered individual, you’ve learned that this person lies, blames and exaggerates. In court, despite swearing an oath to tell the truth, he or she will continue to lie, blame and exaggerate.
How do you protect yourself? How do you make your case? Listen to my interview with attorney Meg Lyons and then follow these basic steps outlined below.
How to Increase Your Chances of Winning Against the Narcissist in Court
Fortunately, many of the recommendations discussed in the podcast are ones I personally used which proved successful. However, know up front that they may be uncomfortable because they’re likely actions you never thought you’d be faced with having to execute in your life. Better to feel the burn, though, and hopefully win the case than to sabotage yourself going in.
#1 – If your Ex’s behaviors are escalating, call the police and file a restraining order
Imagine this scenario – your Ex has started:
- following you around town
- showing up in the parking lot at your place of employment
- destroying your sentimental family heirlooms
- being verbally abusive to you (and your children, if applicable)
- your pet suddenly disappears
- the lock on your front door has been picked a few times
Yet, as disturbing as these events are, you don’t call the police or file a restraining order.
Later, you go to court for divorce or custody and try to tell the Judge about these events. The first thing he or she will ask for is a police report or copy of a restraining order. You don’t have one. Your chances of winning and your credibility just took a huge blow.
How can you prove to the Judge that your partner or Ex is unstable if you haven’t taken basic steps through the legal system? Yeah, it sucks and you might experience intolerable levels of anxiety and guilt, but you’re in no man’s land now. Your only hope for a possible victory is to protect yourself (and your children) at all costs.
Calling the police and/or filing a restraining order often seems like a hypervigilant act to narcissistic abuse victims because they are compassionate, empathic people who don’t like conflict. If this sounds like you, you’ve got to understand that if you don’t follow the line of order in protecting yourself, you will only regret it later. Your future – and your role as a parent, – are at stake.
#2 – Visit your local Domestic Violence center and get yourself a case manager
While states vary in responding to domestic abuse cases, most Domestic Violence centers are educated in the dynamics of emotional abuse and generally work with people who have not been physically abused.
One of the most powerful steps I took in winning a restraining order was opening a case with my local DV center. At that time, I couldn’t afford my own attorney, but my case manager at the DV center helped prepare me so well, I won the case pro se against my Ex and his attorney.
DV case managers cannot represent you in court, but they can help you in other invaluable ways. First, when you show up to your hearing with your case manager sitting in the pews on your behalf, Judges take note. Second, the case managers at these centers are familiar with the Judges and know exactly what each one will want from you in the form of evidence when you go to your hearing. Third, they generally know about emotional abuse and can help you present yourself in court in a way that will be credible and effective.
Most centers also offer:
- Crisis intervention
- Outreach counseling
- Case management
- Court advocacy and accompaniment
- Emergency and transitional housing
- Legal assistance
- Financial assistance for victims in a crisis situation
- Support groups for past and present victims of abuse
#3 – Document everything
When it comes to equipping yourself against the narcissist in court, documentation is your best friend. Document everything. Get two binders – one for you and one for your attorney. Keep copies of emails and text messages (especially threatening ones). Print them out and put them in both binders. Keep logs of all police reports you may have filed, copies of any restraining orders, messages that the narcissist sends you via social media, and missed visitations if you share custody of children. If they fail to take your child to the doctor in the event of illness, document that, too.
It would also behoove you to do a background check on the narcissist to see if there are any old or existing charges against them. It would help your case if you could show up to court with charges against your Ex for assault and battery, restraining orders, or DUIs.
Lastly, if the narcissist is engaging in hostile activities, such as slicing your car tires, hurting your pet, destroying your property or belongings, or being physically abusive, take pictures. (If your situation involves physical assault, call 9-1-1 immediately. Physical abuse is never okay or justified, even if you feel like you “brought it on”).
A word to the wise…under no circumstances should you tell the narcissist that you are documenting their actions. While you may feel tempted to share this with them in the hopes they’ll toe the line and act responsibly, it will only help them put on a better charade all, while they continue their manipulations and irresponsible behaviors, better armed with the information you’ve just shared with them.
#4 – If you share custody, follow the court agreement to the T
Do not cave into any requests from the narcissist to go against the agreement. If you allow it once, it will become part of your long-term arrangement. It not only upsets your kids’ routines, it opens the door for your Ex to continue taking advantage of you. If you do make any exceptions, they should only be in the event of their confirmed illness or injury. Are they claiming that they’ve broken a bone? Been diagnosed with a crippling disease? Request documentation from their doctor.
Your Ex needs to make their personal plans during the times your kids are with you. Not the other way around. If you cave each time this happens, it makes it more difficult for you to have a case in the event you want to file for a modification of custody later.
If you don’t yet have a custody agreement in place, make sure you specify in the agreement exactly which days or nights the narcissist can call. Do not leave this area open to chance. Otherwise, you will feel obligated to answer every time the narcissist calls…and believe me, the narcissist will use this to their advantage. Your job is to create peace for yourself and your children. Leaving yourself open to the narcissist’s whim isn’t going to accomplish that.
Read: The Art of Modified Contact – 5 Steps to Lessen the Madness
The best thing you can do is change your cell phone number and insist they call you on your landline. If you don’t have one, get one. Then, sign up for a supervised email system such as Our Family Wizard. This system cuts down on stealth attacks and keeps your children out of the middle. Ask your attorney about putting this in your court agreement.
Never use your children to relay messages back and forth with the narcissist. This isn’t their responsibility, plus it puts them in the middle – a place they don’t belong. They shouldn’t be burdened with adult responsibilities. If your Ex is doing this, alert your attorney so you can modify the custody agreement to order the Narcissist to stop doing this.
#5 – Don’t give the narcissist the benefit of the doubt
When you are facing court with the narcissist, do not fall under the false impression that they’re feeling nostalgic and pining away for things to go back to the way they once were.
If your partner or Ex meets the criteria of having high levels of narcissism, you should keep this fact in mind when they contact you, pretending to be remorseful or wanting to be friends. Almost all narcissists do this and your partner or Ex is no exception.
It’s easy for empaths and highly sensitive targets of abuse to assume the narcissist feels the same emotions that they do. They don’t. However, they know you want them to and so they will use this soft spot to lay on the charm or try to guilt you into believing you’re overreacting. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve worked with who gave the narcissist the benefit of the doubt and ended up loathing themselves for it after they lost in court and had their children taken away.
#6 – Don’t lose it in front of the Judge
When you’re faced with the possibility of co-parenting with a narcissist or losing everything to them, it feels intolerable. It’s unfair that someone so devious and nefarious can fool the courts into believing they’re just another person trying to catch a break or get what’s fair.
It’s enough to drive you mad. In fact, Dr. Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, people who experience long-term trauma (such as emotional abuse) often develop symptoms that clinicians may misdiagnose, such as Borderline, Dependent, or Masochistic Personality Disorder.
The last thing you want to do is go to court and become unstable in front of the Judge. You’ll need to be business-like and as unemotional as possible. Save your meltdown for when you get back home. At the hearing, maintain your composure, present only facts, and you will make a good impression in front of the Judge, which will pay off nicely if your Ex is trying to paint you as a lunatic.
#7 – Don’t freak out over the narcissist’s threats that they will take your children away or destroy you in court
It’s scary when the narcissist threatens to rip your children away from you or claims they can have you carted off to prison in one court hearing.
The reality, though, is that they’ll need evidence to prove you’re an unfit parent or have committed crimes so heinous, you’ll be ordered to wear an orange jumpsuit before you even leave the courtroom.
If you’ve been a good parent, have no blemishes on your record (such as old drug charges), and can prove you’ve been the one who cares for your children, it’s highly unlikely a Judge will rip your children away from you.
While I can’t speak in regards to all narcissists, many of them hang themselves with their own rope. While I can’t predict this will happen in your situation, following these steps will certainly give you an advantage and increase your chances of winning in court against the narcissist.
 Herman, Judith. “PTSD: National Center for PTSD.” Complex PTSD -. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
* The information contained in this podcast and blog article does not constitute legal representation and should not be interpreted as such. Please refer to a licensed attorney for specific laws in your state.