Divorce is already emotionally exhaustive, but getting child custody from a narcissist can be undoubtedly tricky. This process is often tedious, drawn-out, and full of headaches.
As a parent, you obviously want what’s best for your child. You want to make sure they’re loved and protected. Unfortunately, you probably also know that the narcissist will work as hard as possible to punish you during these custody battles.
That said, getting custody is entirely feasible. It just requires creativity, effort, and careful planning. Let’s get into what you need to know.
How Do You Win a Custody Case Against a Narcissist? Follow These 9 Steps
So, you’re in a custody battle with a narcissist. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and scared but take a deep breath. You can get through this, and you can increase the chance of winning just by having self-awareness and brainstorming properly.
#1 Remember That You Are Dealing With a Narcissist
You probably know that a battle with a narcissist isn’t a typical custody battle. Divorce can hurt anyone, but you’re also dealing with someone vindictive, spiteful, and manipulative.
Narcissistic personality disorder entails having an overinflated ego and needing control. Narcissists lack empathy and insight into other people’s emotions. Therefore, when they feel threatened, they often react with extreme gaslighting. As a result, they will likely push to your limit throughout this process.
That said, knowledge can help you feel empowered. Remember that you don’t have to let them control you any longer. You can reach out for the appropriate support and affirm yourself that you are making the right choice. Most of all, with the right mindset, you can navigate this stressful time.
#2 Take Note of Everything That Happens
The moment separation happens, you need to start your documentation. Write down any instance of abuse or suspicious behavior. Include as much detail as possible and get testimonials from witnesses.
Don’t worry about being excessive with your notes. The more information you can gather, the better. Select Law Partners explains how to keep a detailed child custody journal.
Keep all evidence of texts, email exchanges, and social media posts, and take screenshots that clearly show the times and dates. Keep them in a secure file that’s password-protected. Then, print out the evidence and store them in an accessible place. Some people prefer using binders organized in chronological order. Whichever method you use, keep in mind that organization is vital. You don’t want to be sloppy with maintaining records.
Do not share your documentation process with the narcissist. If they find out, they may try to find whatever you’ve stored. Or, they might attempt to cover their tracks by acting better in front of other people (in an attempt to prove that you’re ‘acting crazy’).
Remember that it’s easy for the narcissist to delete what they share or post. However, the proof lies in the evidence you maintain.
#3 Stop or Limit Communication
According to Lawyer Janet McCullar, you should avoid any additional communication that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you have children, keep your interactions about them short and concise.
Do not engage in any emotional discussion, no matter how tempting it may feel. The narcissist loves attention, even when it’s negative, and you don’t want to create that opportunity for them.
If you can, consider taking a no-contact approach. With this method, you need to avoid all communication. You also need to delete them from social media and ignore any attempts they make to reach out to you.
It’s also a good idea to temporarily avoid or severely limit communicating with any of their friends or direct relatives. You never know if they are using other people to try to hoover you back into their drama.
#4 Contact Law Enforcement
Narcissists often act erratic and explosive when they feel threatened. This risk escalates if you’re the one leaving. They may do everything in their power to punish you or try to convince you to come back.
You should contact law enforcement if the narcissist commits any of the following acts:
- Sexual assault
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal trespassing
- Emotional threats
- Child abuse threats
- Physical assault
Act quickly and ask for a restraining order. A restraining order prohibits the narcissist from contacting you at all. There are different types of restraining orders, but the most common ones are:
- Emergency: lasts a few days and acts as a placeholder for a permanent order.
- Residence exclusion: requires the narcissist to leave home until the court hearing.
- Temporary: protects the victim during the time it takes for the court to hear the case.
- No-contact: protects the victim after hearing the case and with proof that the narcissist committed a crime.
- Domestic violence: protects the victim after the judge deems the narcissist an ongoing danger to the victim.
Filing a restraining order serves multiple purposes. First, it starts a paper trail documenting your concerns about your well-being. It also adds a layer of protection to you and your children.
You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
#5 Use Witness Evidence
Did the nanny observe the two of you fighting? Has your child’s teacher raised concerns about your ex-spouse’s behavior? Was there a problem with your next-door neighbor? Witnesses at a child custody hearing can have a big impact on the outcome.
Now is the time to reach out and ask for them for statements. These statements can help build your case against the narcissist in court.
When requesting this information, let them know that this isn’t about you. It’s about your children and their well-being.
#6 Ensure Your Physical Safety
If you don’t have a place to live- or if your home feels unsafe- it’s worth visiting a local domestic violence center or homeless shelter. These places ensure safety and confidentiality, and they can also help you secure appropriate legal resources.
In addition to providing necessities like food and shelter, these places also usually offer valuable services, such as:
- Ongoing food assistance support (food stamps, programs for free school breakfasts and lunch)
- Affordable housing assistance
- Benefits advocacy (qualification for childcare assistance, Medicaid, social security disability insurance)
- Case management for securing other resources
#7 Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Avoid any drug use. If you drink, drink only in moderation. These habits are essential for your self-care, but they also demonstrate a sense of emotional maturity and personal responsibility.
#8 Continue Being Dependable
Pick your children up from school on time. If you drop your children off to the other parent, avoid any cancellations or reschedules. Answer phone calls and respond to emails promptly.
Reliability is an essential part of parenting. It shows that you are actively involved in your child’s life, and that other people can count on you. The judge will absolutely consider this factor when making their final decisions.
#9 Secure the Right Attorney
When it comes to knowing how to get child custody from a narcissist, hiring the right attorney can make all the difference. You need someone who understands the nuances of narcissistic personality disorder.
Be prepared to meet with several different lawyers. Ideally, you want to choose someone with the best track record in the legal community.
Look for someone active in both state and national family law bar associations. Most states have specialization programs designed to certify lawyers in specific areas of practice. Ask potential candidates how much experience they have in handling divorce cases. You can also inquire about their experience with narcissism.
Of course, hiring a lawyer can be expensive. Fortunately, several legal assistance programs provide inexpensive or pro bono services for those in financial need. These programs usually have specific rules for eligibility based on your location and income.
How Do You Expose a Narcissist in Court?
Custody disputes can feel heartbreaking. But no matter how you feel in the courtroom, aim to remain cool and levelheaded. This temperament is important- it shows that you are emotionally stable under pressure.
Be Prepared for All Outcomes
The narcissist will pull every trick in the courtroom.
They will work hard to charm the judge. They will make themselves look like a perfect parent. They will outright lie and manipulate reality to make themselves look good, and then they will probably try to smear your reputation to everyone involved. They know your triggers, and they know exactly how to raise your blood pressure!
Be prepared for these outcomes. You have your paperwork. You know your reality. You need to have confidence that the narcissist won’t get away with their ridiculous behavior.
Narcissists often thrive in the emotional chaos associated with divorce and custody battles. Don’t give in to their desires. Let your lawyer do the speaking. If you talk, stick to the facts.
Be careful sharing your emotions with mutual friends or family. The narcissist might be pumping them for information. If you need support, reach out to trusted people who don’t associate with your ex. You may also want to consider meeting with a therapist for confidential support.
What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases?
Judges determine custody by considering the factors that best serve the interest of the child. This rule applies across all states, although such judgment can be inherently subjective.
Judges will examine variables, including one’s financial, health, and emotional well-being, when deciding how to proceed. They will also consider issues related to domestic violence, child abuse, or substance use.
Although it’s more of an old-school approach, some judges still favor the mother taking care of younger children, especially if she has been the primary caregiver. For young children, judges will often default to the primary caregiver when choosing custody. However, this rule certainly does not apply if the primary caregiver is deemed unfit to raise the children.
Structure and routine are important for a child’s development. For this reason, judges want to ensure that a child’s schedule remains as consistent as possible.
They tend to grant custody to a parent who can keep their kids in the same school and following the same schedules. This factor needs to be a consideration if you intend on relocating.
Judges want to see that children will be living in safe, clean, stable homes. You should be able to prove that your child has their own bed, clothes, room for their own belongings, and adequate space for play and mealtimes.
Some judges prefer granting custody to the parent who remains in the family home. But they will also consider your proximity to your spouse. For example, if you two opt to live in the same city, the judge will likely consider splitting the custody.
Depending on the state, some adolescents and teenagers can share their preferences with the judge directly. In other cases, an appointed custody evaluator can discuss the child’s desires.
Do not try to convince your child to live with you. Instead, maintain open communication, and be empathic to your child’s needs. Avoid badmouthing the other parent. It’s worth expressing your fears with older children, but you shouldn’t try to manipulate them in how to think a certain way.
Judges want to see that you can provide for your child’s basic needs. You must prove that you can afford housing, food, medical care, clothing, and educational resources.
Judges typically want to keep siblings together to ensure stability. It’s rare to break siblings apart, particularly if they are biologically related. This rule can become more complicated in cases involving half-children, stepchildren, adopted children, or foster children.
Abuse is one of the most important considerations a judge examines when evaluating custody. As you know, narcissistic abuse isn’t always blatant. That’s why documentation, restraining orders, and remaining calm and objective help your case.
Judges want to ensure that the parent does not present any risk for emotional or physical danger. They will identify various parental characteristics, home environments, and child-rearing skills.
There’s no doubt that dealing with a narcissist in court can be incredibly frustrating. Staying proactive in building your case can help you win this custody battle. In the meantime, avoid giving the narcissist any attention. It’s time to focus on you, your children, and moving on from the pain of the past.