How to Divorce Someone With a Narcissistic Personality Disorder
By Beverly Bird
Even mentally healthy individuals might feel some sense of rejection when they learn their spouses want a divorce. Individuals diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder will usually take the news even worse. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and are hypersensitive to any implication that they’ve failed at an endeavor. States increasingly train their divorce court judges to deal with all sorts of difficult personalities, including those caused by mental disorders. However, if your spouse suffers from NPD, you may have to take some commonsense steps of your own if you want to end your marriage.
Choose the Right Grounds
If you file for divorce on fault grounds, your spouse can complicate your divorce immeasurably by arguing that he never did anything wrong -- and he probably will, because his mental disorder prevents him from acknowledging his own shortcomings. All states recognize no-fault grounds, so you don't have to risk this. When you choose the no-fault option instead, your spouse can only argue issues of property, custody and support. He can’t protest that he isn't guilty of your grounds.
Ask for a Protective Order
In some states, such as Texas, you can file for a protective or restraining order at the same time you file for divorce. In other jurisdictions, you might have to make a separate application to the court for protection. You can find out what the procedure is in your state by contacting a divorce attorney or the legal aid services in your area. No matter how you do it, you might want to get such an order in place as soon as possible, because your spouse might react with rage or violence when he learns you've filed for divorce. A restraining order not only prevents him from approaching you or contacting you, but you can also ask the court for an injunction as well. This prevents him from taking any retaliatory action to regain control over you and the situation, such as by giving away marital assets, or taking your children and refusing to let you see them.
Proceed With the Divorce
You can probably expect your spouse to try to thwart your divorce proceedings. Divorce makes him look like a failure, so he'll likely want to do everything he can to prevent that. Although he can't stop your divorce entirely, there are many things he can do to slow it down. He might dodge service of your divorce petition, but you can file a separate motion with the court to ask for permission to have him served by some other means, such as by certified mail or by publication in a newspaper. He might file frivolous motions of his own, dragging you into court at every turn and protesting every step of the proceedings. However, if he does this, your judge will soon realize the kind of personality he's dealing with, and you can ask him to make your spouse pay your legal fees because he's required you to appear in court and defend yourself so many times.
Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder prefer to make their own rules. After your divorce is final, your ex might resist complying with the terms of your decree or blatantly ignore them. However, all states allow “enforcement motions.” You can take your ex back to court and tell the judge he hasn’t done what he was supposed to do. The judge will usually give your ex another chance to comply; then, if he still doesn’t act, he will order sanctions, possibly as severe as jail time. However, this might make your ex even angrier, so before you pursue this course, speak with an attorney to find out if it’s really worth it. If you just want to be free of your spouse, you might be better off not engaging him in further legal fights unless the stakes are significant, such as your share of property distribution.
- The Gitlin Law Firm: Grounds for Divorce
- Divorce Magazine: Are Judges Trained to Recognize and Deal Appropriately With Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
- MayoClinic.com: Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Divorce Source: Blocking a Divorce
- Raggio & Raggio: How a Texas Divorce Case Works
- Woman’s Divorce: Enforcing Divorce Decrees
- USLegal: Frivolous Claims Law & Legal Definition
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.