Divorcing a 'complicated' spouse

Divorce is rarely an easy decision. It can be stressful, painful and exhausting even under the best of circumstances. It makes you worry about your future and your children. How will you make ends meet? What will custody look like? How much will this whole ordeal cost you?

Divorce is much worse when dealing with a spouse who seeks to not only win, but also manipulate and control you throughout the process. Make no mistake, if you are dealing with a narcissist, these spouses tend to want to punish and belittle the other in every possible way to ride the high of the victory. This can lead to a drawn out court case and continuing pain for you and your children.

What are the warning signs you're dealing with a narcissist?

You might know the answer to this question already. After all, you were married. But, narcissism isn't just an opinion about character. It is a clinical diagnosis. Psychology Today recently published an article online about how to spot a narcissistic spouse - and why it is crucial to have independent, knowledgeable, experienced and strong representation in these cases.

The biggest warning sign is that your spouse will be out for the win. No negotiation or mediation will do for true narcissists, even if they have cheated, stolen, or worse. Narcissists live for the game, for dragging the divorce out to see if they can beat the system. Even worse, they will do everything in their power to hurt you or don't care about the ramifications for everyone else in their path, like your children.

Just as the narcissistic spouse will look to play games and wound you, time becomes the ultimate payment. Your spouse will likely file multiple motions and drag out the already lengthy timeline of divorce to drain your money, exhaust you, and, worse of all, make you look as bad as possible in public and private. Be prepared for your spouse to fight dirty.

Can you fight back... with dignity?

So what can you do against a manipulative, intelligent, possibly well-funded spouse?

· Notify your divorce lawyer of the situation. If you find that your attorney is not familiar with this type of personality, it may be a good idea to seek representation with somebody who is.

· Keep records of everything from difficult interactions to finances.

· Maintain a cool head and do your best to shelter your children from the difficulties between you and your spouse. You may be angry but rather than send that text or email or voicemail, think about how it could be used against you and look for a healthier outlet. Remember, if you are dealing with a narcissist, they will likely edit everything you say and do to make them look like the "good guy" and you like the "bad guy."

If you find yourself looking to divorce a narcissistic spouse, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney who knows not only the family law system in your area but also how to deal with this type of personality. It may even benefit you to attend therapy to work through the psychological and emotional trauma of your divorce.

At the office of Amy L. Beauchaine, Attorney at Law, we know when to negotiate and when to fight, but when we step up to the plate, we do it with a careful strategy. Our lawyer has significant experience handling highly complex divorces, including those involving spouses that don't want to play fair.

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Amy L. Beauchaine, Attorney at Law
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