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June 14, 2023
FAMILY LAW MATTERS

Narcissist or Not? – How to spot a narcissist and how to manage them in your family law matter

“My Ex is a Narcissist!” 

This is something we hear regularly in our family law practice. It is unsurprising because “Narcissists” or people with narcissistic personality traits, are highly emotional and dramatic, and therefore often unable or unwilling to resolve disputes without a fight. In short, these are the people, and the cases, which require expert legal intervention.
So, how do we spot a narcissist? 

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Technical Definitions of a Narcissist 

The Psychological Diagnostic Manual Version 5 (DSM-5) defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy. It forms one of the “Cluster B” personality disorders which typically presents with overly emotional and unpredictable behaviour. To diagnose NPD the person must meet 5 of the following, consistently from young adulthood and persisting: 

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without actually completing the achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
  • Believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should only associate with other special people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, such as an unreasonable expectation of favourable treatment or compliance with his or her expectations.
  • Is exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
  • Lacks empathy and is unwilling to identify with the needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours and attitudes.

(DSM-5)

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What to look out for in your family law matter 

Most people are not trained mental health professionals and in our day-to-day work as Family Law solicitors, we are not trying to clinically diagnose a person. Instead, we are trying to identify barriers to being able to resolve any given dispute. The below are signs or behaviours which we might see a narcissist show through family law negotiations, and which could result in a difficult barrier to a resolution:  

  1. They always believe their view of reality is entirely correct. 

For example, if they believe they came into a relationship with $100,000 savings, they will not accept that they only had $10,000, even when presented with evidence.  

  1. They expect everyone else to agree with them and are inflexible in their views. 

They might impose the arrangements for the children on you and refuse to consider any alternatives which might be better for the children. 

  1. Anyone that disagrees with them or has a different view is incompetent or biased against them. 

We often find this where a child psychologist or family report writer makes recommendations against that parent, in which case their default view would that the expert is not appropriately qualified or otherwise that the other parent has influenced the experts views. 

  1. They can hold grudges and wage unrelenting war on a person, sometimes for years. 

This can be seen when one party refuses to participate in mediation or comprise to resolve a matter, and will result in a lengthy court battle. 

  1. The above traits become worse when under stress. 

Therefore, we often see this during property and parenting disputes as it can be a very stressful experience. 

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Tips for dealing with a narcissist in your family law matter

Whether you apply the DSM diagnostic criteria or the more general warning signs listed above, the result is that you a dealing with a difficult personal who will make it extremely difficult to come to a timely resolution of your matter. 

Here are some tips on dealing with a person with narcissistic personally traits: 

  1. Reduce all communications to writing. 
  2. Surround yourself with support, either family and friends or mental health professionals.
  3. Don’t feed them with an emotional reaction. 
  4. Get legal advice from a specialist family law expert.  

It is best that we can identity whether this will be an issue in your case, as early as possible, so that we can come up with a strategy to achieve a timely resolution to your dispute. 

At Family Law Matters, we are experts at dealing with difficult personalities and helping you through your settlement and out to the other side.

Call to make an appointment with one of our expert solicitors today!