Strategies for divorcing a narcissist

You might refer to your ex as a “narcissist” colloquially, or your ex might actually have a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Either way, going through a divorce from someone who displays narcissistic personality tendencies is likely to be at least as difficult as the relationship with them was. And yet it has to be done. So what are some tips for divorcing a narcissist?

Most divorce litigation in Australia settles, with a judge figuring out the final outcome for only a small percentage of couples. And it’s in this percentage that you’ll often find high-conflict individuals with personality disorders such as NPD.  

People who are diagnosed with the personality disorder NPD are identified by (among other things) their sense of entitlement, grandiosity, arrogance, interpersonal exploitativeness and lack of empathy. Abusive behaviour can be common in their romantic relationships.

And when someone with a narcissistic personality goes through a divorce, they frequently play very dirty indeed.  It’s not uncommon to see shameless lies, exaggerations and inventions.  You’ll find kids are used as pawns or alienation is attempted—because narcissists simply don’t care about the emotional cost of their actions to anyone else.

Throughout the legal process, they’re typically uncooperative, in hopes of causing further drama and chaos. They’ll refuse to exchange information or to negotiate. They will flout court orders. They’ll cause unnecessary battles that will require multiple trips to court. Even after settlement, they’ll go back to court.

They play to win and expect you to capitulate. But forewarned is fore-armed…

Preparation for divorcing a narcissist

If you are going through a divorce from a narcissist spouse, experts recommend taking some steps to prepare, especially financially.

  • Amass your war chest

Given the narcissist spouse’s typical tactics of drawing out a case as much as possible, when divorcing a narcissist you have to plan for a war, not a battle. This means you need to face the prospect of costly litigation and prepare well for that unfortunate prospect.

  • Organise your financial paperwork

You may need to start the paperwork gathering process (eg. tax returns, bank statements, investment info, etc) before revealing divorce plans to the narcissist spouse, because the narcissistic spouse is likely to try to make it very difficult for you to proceed at every stage. Rather than be forced to chase down and subpoena everything, get in early. Allow yourself the time to get all your necessary copies of financial and legal documents together and keep them securely stored away from the family home.

  • Team up

Surround yourself with a divorce team that understands the tricks that narcissistic spouses use in the legal system. Your family lawyer should have an understanding of how personality disorders affect family law matters, and a good understanding of family violence and family law issues, because of the connection between narcissism and domestic abusers.

Other members of your divorce team would ideally include a financial planner to be your financial expert through the divorce proceedings. They will understand the financial implications of all the different settlement scenarios to help you find the best financial solution. A therapist or counsellor is also likely to be an important part of your divorce support team when you are splitting from a narcissist. And if children are involved, therapy is likely to benefit them as well.

You might also like to read our blog on co-parenting with a narcissist.

Alliance Legal Services staff are not qualified to give a mental health diagnosis, nor to treat people with therapeutic or other interventions. Our role is strictly limited to providing legal advice. However, our lawyers make a point of attending seminars run by psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to learn how to run family law cases effectively where spouses have diagnosed or undiagnosed personality disorders.

If you are unsure about how to handle your ex, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.


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