Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Its Impact on Custody/Divorce Proceedings

If you find yourself involved in a family law matter with a narcissist it is imperative to act quickly and protect both you and your family during this time.

April 14, 2020

The term “narcissist” is over used today in many people’s vocabulary, to describe others who act selfishly, though most people will never understand the profound impact that being married to or co-parenting with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder can have on their lives.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is described by the Mayo Clinic as, “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” (1) This type of personality disorder can be further exacerbated by divorce or custody proceedings.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Divorce

Certain characteristics that are commonly seen with someone who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, specifically in divorce proceedings, can include monopolizing conversations and belittling or looking down on people they perceive as inferior, typically their spouse; insisting on acquiring the most expensive or highly sought after home, car, etc.; and expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.(1)

What can be most frustrating for a spouse when married to a narcissist is how the outside world perceives them. A narcissist is a master manipulator and therefore they can seem enchanting and highly personable to someone who is not intimately engaged with them behind closed doors. The danger with these characteristics when approaching a divorce litigation is the narcissistic spouse believes “that he/she can manipulate the divorce proceedings to his/her advantage.” (2).

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Custody

Often coupled with the divorce process, though commonly seen separate, are custody conflicts that involve a parent with narcissistic personality disorder. Great difficulties can manifest when a custody conflict arises and one of the parents is a narcissist or who has narcissistic characteristics, some of these concerns include, “viewing the children as his/her belonging—or as…an asset—and certainly an extension of himself or herself, which can make any resolution of custody that much more difficult.” (2) A common syndrome that is found while navigating a custody litigation with a narcissist is Parental Alienation Syndrome. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the detrimental relationship established between a narcissistic parent and their child(ren) that creates a hostile relationship with the non-narcissistic parent.

Throughout custody litigation children who are being raised by a parent who has narcissistic personality disorder will have lifelong issues to possibly include, the child seeking external validation rather than internal validation, the child having difficulty learning appropriate boundaries in relationships, and the child’s emotion development will be stunted. (3)

If you find yourself involved in a family law matter with a narcissist it is imperative to act quickly and protect both you and your family during this time. Consulting with a skilled attorney who can advise you through these times by predicting and planning for future crises and accusations, protecting your children from conflict with their other parent, and accurately documenting your experiences could make all the difference in your legal matter. (4). Contact us at Strentz & Greene, PLC to further discuss your matter with an experienced attorney.


(1) Narcissistic personality disorder, Mayo Clinic (2017), (last visited Apr 12, 2020).

(2) Lisa Zeiderman, Divorcing a Narcissist? Be Prepared Psychology Today (2019), (last visited Apr 12, 2020).

(3) Karyl McBride, The Real Effect of Narcissistic Parenting on Children Psychology Today (2018), (last visited Apr 12, 2020).

(4) William A. Eddy & Randi Kreger, Splitting: protecting yourself while divorcing someone with borderline or narcissistic personality disorder (2011).

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