By default, custody proceedings is a difficult process. But when you’re dealing with someone displaying signs of narcissistic personality disorder, they become even more so. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make fighting a narcissist for custody a less painful process for you and for your children.
As much as possible, keep track of everything that might be useful later on. If your ex hasn’t fulfilled their child support obligation for months, document it. If they haven’t been in your child’s life for a year, document it. If they’ve missed every phone call they’ve scheduled with the kids, document it. Concrete evidence is as close to irrefutable as you can get in a custody case. Bonus points if you keep backup copies just in case.
Having been in a relationship with one, you’re probably well aware that many narcissists struggle with the concept of object constancy, or “the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection to someone that you like while you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by his or her behavior.” Arguing with a narcissist can do more harm than good and ultimately leave you drained. It’s better to save your energy when possible. You’ll also be more able to keep calm if you aren’t engaging in an argument, which will be important not only to make a good impression on the court but to maintain your own mental health.
Take Care of Yourself
Do you know how, on an airplane, you’re instructed to put an oxygen mask on yourself before helping those around you? The same concept applies here. You need to be well enough to care and advocate for your children, both in and out of the courtroom. This might involve setting boundaries with your narcissistic ex—children, of course, complicate the zero-contact approach generally suggested for recovering for narcissistic abuse. Still, you can set firm boundaries with them to help protect yourself. Seeing a therapist can be a great tool for you to not only take care of yourself (and, by extension, your child) but to help you heal from your past relationship with this ex.
Plan and Prepare
Failure to plan is planning to fail, right? Being as prepared as possible for what’s to come throughout the custody process will make it an easier time overall. Research custody law both generally and in your state. Seek out others who’ve been through the process and can offer their advice. And, most importantly, communicate with your lawyer along the way. Your lawyer can help you to be ready for each step of the process and every possible outcome. If further battles arise along the way, such as a modification of child support hearing, your lawyer can help you to understand what’s entailed and how to be ready.
Take Care of Your Child(ren)
Without question, this process is an exhausting one for you, but it’s also a significant moment in your child’s life. Custody proceedings represent a substantial change to your child’s life and routine. It’s important to make yourself available to listen to their thoughts and feelings along the way and to answer questions they might have about what’s going on.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have some help with this part, either. A therapist or other mental health professional can help your child to process their emotions in a safe space. Organizations like the Therapy Group of NYC even offer teletherapy, so patients can experience cognitive behavioral therapy and other treatments from the comfort of their home. A therapist may want to speak to your child independently or may want you to sit in on some or all of their sessions but you can support them either way by remaining positive attitude about their appointments. Let them know you’re proud of them!
Ultimately, the most important factor is to simply be a good parent. Your children will see it and the courts will see it—and you’ll feel good about knowing you’re doing the best you can in difficult circumstances.