I’m often grateful that I didn’t have children on my slog through the family courts. My experience was horrific, but at the end of the day, there were some battles I could elect not to find. At some point, I could choose to walk away. After all, it was simply money on the table.
But when you’re a parent and it’s your kids on that proverbial table? You can’t simply choose to lay down your sword and cut your losses. You have to fight. Even when your opponent fights dirty.
Here is Jen Adler’s story about her experience with a malignant divorce and an inept system:
Divorcing a Narcissist Is Tough
I read an article today – about divorcing a narcissist. It gave an accurate, if sterile account of what it is to divorce a narcissist. A friend sent me a link to the article. She’s read my blog about the after-effects of divorcing a narcissist but being bound by children of the marriage. She wanted to show me I’m not the only one who understands and acknowledges the issue. It’s mainstream now.
It didn’t leave me feeling validated. Or comforted. Or even grateful for the exposure to a problem that has gutted my life. It left me pissed off.
The article – detailing a book by Karyl McBride called Will I Ever Be Free of You – talks about a problem I know intimately well. The article uses phrases like,
It’s tough to divorce a narcissist.
Children are terribly harmed.
Family courts are playgrounds for narcissists.
All of which are true, but none of which anyone who has not divorced a narcissist can understand in any meaningful way. It’s like saying,
Cancer kills lots of people. It’s sad. In other news, the Reds beat the Pirates last night.
If you’re reading this right now, and YOU haven’t lived through a narcissist, then you can’t understand why I’m angry. Let me tell you what divorcing a narcissist really looks like.
The Family Picture Post Narc Divorce
My husband and I both divorced narcissists. We make nearly $200,000 a year in combined income yet live paycheck to paycheck. Before you ask, we have no credit card debt. We live in a small house we rent from my parents after losing our home to foreclosure in 2012. When divorcing a narcissist, sometimes one has to choose between having legal representation to defend one’s right to be a parent versus paying a mortgage. We pay $3000 a month in child support and lawyer fees.
We owe our lawyer over $100,000. We’ve paid her more than $60,000 already. This is all for POST-DECREE work. This is not what it cost to divorce our narcs.
We have no retirement accounts, no savings accounts, no safety net. Everything has been cashed out in order to continue fighting to protect our kids from their narc parents – and to protect our right to be involved in our children’s lives.
This is who we are. Financially at least. And I have to tell you, neither my husband nor I complain about our financial situation. We joyfully give up everything we have to protect our family. And if the money we dole out monthly, if the retirement accounts we’ve completely depleted, if ANY of the money we spend actually made a difference in the lives of our children or our right to be parents? Neither of us would complain. But the sad truth is, it makes no difference at all. Why?
Family Courts are Stupid
Family courts don’t protect families. Family courts protect parent’s rights. And they don’t even do that very well. Here are some fun facts about our experience in family court.
My husband was ordered to pay for private schools for his children, even though his ex-wife removed the children from private schools and enrolled them in a public school THAT DOESN’T CHARGE TUITION. Yes. You read that right. We’re paying tuition to his ex-wife for kids who go to public schools. And this was one of the better rulings we got from family court…
For the last six years, I have been trying to get therapeutic support for my son. His father argues there is nothing wrong with his son. He brings in teachers and neighbors and distant relatives to back him up. In fact, father posits the only reason I want therapy for my son is because I WANT there to be something wrong with him so I can get attention. In fighting for this, I lost custody of my son, lost the right to be involved in any medical appointments/decisions regarding my son. And yet, the court never once had my son evaluated by an outside psychologist. When I had him evaluated, the court threw out the testimony of the psychologist – because dad had not agreed to have him evaluated, and because the court did not order it.
I was once found in contempt of court for removing my son from the daycare he attended prior to going to kindergarten. I received an email from his father stating the date his father would be taking him out of that same daycare. When I then emailed back indicating I would do the same, I was served with papers of contempt and found guilty of removing him from the daycare the court had ordered he attend. His father also removed him from the same daycare on the same day.
Don’t try to understand, it isn’t supposed to make sense.
I was found in contempt of court for moving (after losing our home to foreclosure) because a restraining order had been filed to stop me. The restraining order was served to me one week after we moved. I was found guilty.
Yeah, that’s awful, but what’s the other side of the story?
There’s no such thing as a happy divorce. There’s fighting and bitterness, name calling and ugliness in most every divorce. So how is one to know the difference between a “normal” divorce and one with a narcissist?
This is the basis upon which the general public, divorce attorneys, guardian ad-litems, parenting coordinators, magistrates, and judges use to justify their dismissal of anyone who tries to shine light upon the problems arising from divorcing narcissists. These are just normal parts of divorce.
I’m a mild mannered mother who has never spanked my children and relocate the bugs in my house because I can’t bring myself to kill them. But I will punch the next court representative who tells me
If the parents could just get along, then the child wouldn’t be having these problems.
There is no other side of the story in divorcing a narcissist. That’s the point. It just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because,
- No divorce should cost upwards of $160,000.
- Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t require two people for a fight. One person can make it happen just fine, and narcissists LOVE to fight.
- Looking at individual issues makes it seem as if the narc could actually be reasonable. After all, why can’t mom just agree for her son to go to school in his father’s school district? Why can’t mom just agree to allow dad to sign up the child for activities five days a week? Why can’t mother just agree for dad to have full custody so that there doesn’t have to be fighting between the two parties? Why can’t mom just not have access to school records so that school officials don’t have to feel uncomfortable dealing with two parents in a contentious divorce? Why can’t mom?????
This is why I’m mad
I’m not angry because all of this happened in my life. I don’t even resent the narcissist who still plagues us ten years after the divorce. I’m not angry we’ve lost our life savings, I’m not angry we live paycheck to paycheck, I’m not angry our narcs drive Audi’s and Hummers, belong to country clubs and live in $500,000+ homes. That’s the easy part of divorcing a narc. Know what’s hard?
Stupid. Family. Courts.
A narc behaves as a narc will behave. I hold no grudges against the mentally ill. However, family courts? If a problem makes the New York Times, I’d say that’s fairly mainstream. So why, after years and years and years of a problem that is coming to light, that fills up family court dockets, that debilitates families and children, WHY IS FAMILY COURT THE ONLY PLACE PRETENDING DIVORCING NARCS AREN’T A PROBLEM?
Forgive me this rant. This unnatural anger. I admit it’s good the problem warrants coverage in books and certainly in a publication like the New York Times. But lets not sugar coat things with phrases like, “divorcing a narc is tough”. Divorcing a narc is not tough, it is a blood sacrifice of one’s self and children to the mercy of a court system that wants to do what is easy and what fits into their “normal” divorce model. It drives families to bankruptcy and foreclosure. It leaves children with scars which will haunt them throughout their lives. It is a problem that no one wants to deal with and for which no one has a solution.
More About the Author
Hi. I’m not Jen Adler, and this isn’t actually a picture of me. I am the writer of a blog written anonymously in an attempt to keep it out of the sites of the narcissist who stalks my life. I write about surviving a relationship with a narcissist so that people can understand the devastation wrought by those with this disease. I highlight the ways family courts empower narcissists to continue abusing their targets and their children. I write about it so people will understand and support the legal changes that badly need to happen in order to protect victims of narcissists.
Read more from not-Jen at Peace In – Chaos Out
I know this is a topic and a cause that many of us can relate with.
4 thoughts on “Guest Post – Divorcing a Narcissist Is Tough”
I actually just read that article on Huffington myself. The truth of the matter is that its tough to get a divorce. Divorcing a narcissist is a whole different can of worms. Its not “tough” its soul crushing. There is a big difference. People who don’t understand, just look at it as another high conflict divorce. I got so tired of trying to explain to lawyers and mediators that I’m not instigating anything. I’m limiting contact as possible. Its usually at the point where they meet my ex, and get pushed around and bullied by him that they start to understand.
That doesn’t help me in front of a judge though. The courts assume that both parties are equally responsible for the arguments, but you’re right – it only takes one person to argue.
The article saying that the kids get used as pawns feels like an understatement. Its so much worse than that.
There is no excuse for the courts knowing these people are out to destroy their former spouses however they can, and the courts still act like both parties are equally causing issues.
It cost me 8000 in legal fees just to get my ex to pay me child support, and I have the kids 100% of the time. There is no need for that kind of bullshit.
still paying bills off one day at a time, i was lucky. Really, really, lucky! My dad came across an attorney that he admired first hand. She gets it he told me, get her. I did, my ex and his equally narc (pro bono free friend) attorney, huffed and puffed and she called them out. On everything, and anything. To the point i mention getting my attorney involved he backs off. It took a lot of standing up and keeping my mouth shut (attorney said i do the talking that’s what you pay me for) to get to this point and i pick my battles as well, (unlike ex mine’s not free) but i have some peace. (and a lot of debt, i laugh when i see those credit fraud protection commecials, cause i don’t need it i couldn’t even get the credit for my son’s trumpet rental at school, thanks mom for helping with that) I strategize and predict and counter measure before he even thinks of attacking, i tell my current husband i must have been a war general in a previous life. He divorced a narc too, so we understand the double duty that particular situation takes both in energy and money. But it’s the knowledge and understanding for each other’s plight that helped bring us together and fall in love with each other. that along with the faces of my children i would never put a price on, cause it’s worth every penny. Happily broke is what my husband and i call it. Happily broke and narc free! maybe i can make bumper stickers?
But what has to be reformed is the deliberately vague and lucrative laws left to the discretion of the overloaded family court judges, who do double duty in all misdemeanor type civil matters. We sit there for half a day with a docket full of all manner of proceedings, traveling appointed judges, completely unfamiliar with anything, attorneys juxtapositioning with never ending requests that aren’t complied with, and judges who eventually notice how embarrassingly old the case is!
Judges should see themselves for the pawns they are, and require that any party that;
comes back to court after being dismissed, has been previously sanctioned,
and is in child support arrearages above the $5,000 federal felony level, be completely out of arrearages before they allow them to file anything concerning the devorce decree! The whole thing has become another disfunctional “government vampire”.
So, you be the Judge….
A true Narcissist, the “perfect person” according to anyone who would meet them (including smart Judges, until you provide hard evidence that it’s a con job).
They never tell you any negative information of their life, and neither does anyone else who’s related. Important hidden information hits you like a stealth bomb every few months. Shell shocked, you slowly become a world class detective. You start planning your escape every six months, but what about the kids? You try to pin “jello” to the wall, but they just won’t seek professional help, and only behave “decent” when afraid they’ll come home to an empty house. Money & status symbols are more important than family, even braces for your lisping teen. In 20 years you’ve never heard “I’m sorry I said, did…”. Everything is always everyone else. They lie about everything that might make them appear to be anything less than pure perfection; why they did or didn’t, can or can’t, were let go from their job, late from the gym, busy at work, trips for work, living a double life, so on and so forth. They say “what will my (employer) think” when you tell them you are divorcing them! They lie about their income (and get caught) in mediation. They present the same lie to the Judge at the PDL hearing for temporary support, because they are delusional and pretend they believe it (there for it IS true)and get caught again! From there, their non-support of their children is the state’s fault, your lawyers fault, their lawyers fault, your fault! You’ve been divorced and haven’t lived within 500 miles of them for a decade, but they blame you for the poor relationship with their children after they stole the children’s college trust money. Because they owe massive arrearages, you’ve been defending yourself against false charges added to modifications in family court for 9 years. You have been awarded attorney fees, but have no way to collect, you are in line behind the state’s child services (a saving grace, powerful, well protected by the court, and always on the hunt). They even try to take the State’s Child Services to court (still delusional). You can’t just walk away, because if you are a “no show” then you are guilty of the false charges, by default. You bought your attorney a nice BMW, your 14 year old Toyota needs $3,000 in repairs, but that went to your attorney, too. Your ex emails that they will continue to take you to court until they take everything from you. They have plenty of money to keep you trauma-bonded, and everything is in the new “victims”, oh, I mean spouse’s name. You went to court, again…ah, your ex has a nice new car:(
According to the family’s therapist, mine is clinical NPD!
In reading this article I feel blessed that my son was 16 at the time my divorce proceedings began and his father, my narc husband, was too concern about sleeping with his adulteress than spending time with our son. As a result he didn’t put up a fight for child custody OR frequent visitations. He also refused to pay ANY child support because he chose to “wine and dine” his adulteress to make a good impression on her AND I imagine buy her sexual favors!! You see, I chose to stop having sex with him after one too many disrespectful and dishonorable actions towards me that he simply could NOT bring himself to “lower his superiority complex” to apologize!!! Apologies became a source of indignation for him over the years and he’d just as well die than admit he was wrong about anything!!! Our divorce lingered on for several years because that was another way to exert control over me. He and his attorney used several ‘starve your spouse out’ techniques to drive up my attorney’s fees. I shared his medical record with my attorney which showed his DSM diagnosis however my attorney chose to ignore it and use it to her advantage by playing along with the delay games and his refusal to respond completely to motions that we continuously filed to obtain discovery documents!! I finally realized that the attorneys on both sides were NOT interested in resolving ANY issues between us nor were they working towards any settlements on anything. They were simply ‘churning’ the case to make as much money off of my mentally ill husband. I now realiz that sharing his diagnosed mental illness worked against me not for me. My attorney had the nerves to tell me that bringing up his diagnose mental illness would appear petty and as a personal attack against him! So she simply played along with his obstruction of the divorce process and charge me more money than I should have paid her. I finally fired her for being incompetent and lazy!!! I decided to ‘settle’ for way less than I KNOW I am entitled to because PEACE is more important to me than having to check my account every two weeks to see if he complied with a court order for spousal support. Dealing with him on any level is sickening to me and I know he delights in having any semblance of control over my life (spousal support) decisions so I chose to give up on lifetime support to have peace of mind!! Not everyone can do what I did but I don’t wan to be the next NBS by staying connected to him for any support. It’s bad enough that he’s my child’s father. Sick individuals take pleasure in destruction of any kind, and that includes lives too.