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Negotiating child custody with a narcissist

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2023 | Family Law, Parental Alienation |

Most divorced parents in Michigan develop their child custody arrangements through a process of negotiation. This is never easy. Developing a parenting time schedule — with all its technical details of drop-offs and pickups, vacations and so can be a lot of work.

Even in a relatively amicable divorce, hashing out these technical details can bring out conflict between the parents. For this reason, many parents go through mediation to resolve their child custody disputes.

And then there are the high-conflict cases in which mediation just won’t work.

The narcissistic parent

Some of the most difficult of these cases involve a narcissistic parent.

A narcissistic parent may have trouble seeing their child as an individual person, and even see signs of their child’s independence as a threat. They may be neglectful of their child or manipulate their emotions.

The narcissism spectrum and child custody

Psychologists say that narcissism exists on a spectrum. Many individuals have narcissistic tendencies as part of their personalities. In some cases, these tendencies are so strong that they constitute a psychological disorder, which psychologists call narcissistic personality disorder

If you believe your ex is narcissistic, you may need to figure out where your ex stands in that spectrum, and tailor your strategy accordingly. You may be able to negotiate with a parent who is narcissistic, but you won’t be able to do so with one who has narcissistic personality disorder.

Negotiating with a narcissist

You may be able to negotiate effectively with a parent who has a relatively mild case of narcissism by, for instance, playing to their need to feel important.

If you’re going to do this, be sure to prepare in advance. You can write a list of things that might set off your ex in a way that can get in the way of reaching an agreement.

When you get to the negotiation, stick to the point while minimizing emotional responses. Stick to a schedule as well, and don’t let your ex sidetrack you.

That said, if your ex is severely narcissistic, you cannot rely on them to negotiate in good faith. In these cases, you will likely have to resolve your issues through litigation, and you’ll need help from professionals who have experience with the psychological issues in high-conflict child custody disputes.