Common Personalities in High-Conflict Divorce: Tips from a Lawyer’s Perspective

high conflict divorce

In part 2 of our high-conflict divorce blog series, we continue our look at difficult divorces and how to cope with a problematic ex. Is a high-conflict spouse at risk for derailing your divorce? Here’s a lawyer’s perspective on how to keep problematic personalities in check.

Find Part 1 here: Common Personalities In High-Conflict Divorce (And How To Handle Them).

High Conflict Personality: The Narcissist Ex

Can you negotiate? While New Jersey courts favor out of court settlement, and mediation and negotiation are always recommended, attempting to come up with an agreement with a narcissistic ex simply may not be possible. Because they are averse to rules and see no issue with exploitation of others, sitting across a table from a narcissist will yield little or no results. Mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution in New Jersey are geared towards open, honest and healthy communication and narcissists simply may not be capable of approaching their divorce issues  in this way.

Consider the attorney’s approach. If you find yourself embroiled in combative litigation with your narcissist ex, remove yourself. Look toward the skills and guidance of a tough and experienced family law attorney who has the luxury of being emotionally removed from your divorce. When selecting a family law attorney to represent you, be sure that you let them know about your ex’s personality and how a soft touch may simply not be the correct approach.

Accept you may have to go to trial. Unfortunately, if you ex is simply too entrenched in themselves and their wants and needs, you may have to accept the possibility that you will have a divorce trial. While trials can be time consuming and expensive, you simply may need the firmness of a judge to rule on your issues. Hopefully, you choose a tough attorney who can work with your ex’s lawyer so that a settlement still can be reached in the end.

High Conflict Personality: The Borderline Ex

Kids may be affected: As we learned, people with borderline personalities can be utterly confusing in their moods and responses to you and to the divorce. Remember, this type of person can react to being served with divorce papers with great fear and a crippling sense that they are being abandoned. If child custody is an issue, they may attempt to alienate the children and may certainly adopt an “all or nothing” approach to custody or parenting time.

Mediation may not be for you. Again, it may be difficult or impossible to negotiate reasonably with a borderline ex. If they truly believe that you are awful for abandoning them in their view, they simply may not wish to sit down and attempt to work it out. They may seek to control custody or parenting time or react in grandiose and dramatic ways during pickup and drop off of the kids.

Structure is key. Be sure to tell your divorce attorney if these behaviors are affecting your children, especially if they are showing signs of parental alienation. Insist on a fully detailed and specific custody and parenting time plan that leaves no room for misinterpretation or manipulation. If there is a constant scene caused when you are exchanging the children, consider a neutral location such as a restaurant or a shopping mall as a pickup/drop-off location. If your ex becomes extremely volatile, you may need to consider using your local police precinct as your meeting point when exchanging the children.

The Helicopter Parent

Dealing with the compulsion to manage. Much like the borderline ex, the helicopter parent can alienate children from their other parent, simply by constantly criticizing their ability to parent. Parenting time or sharing custody can become a nightmare as you can be made to feel constantly scrutinized. Your kids may suffer as well and refuse to respect you in your home because of what is most likely being said in their presence. As tempting as it may be, do not react negatively to your children about them or their ex. You certainly don’t want to find yourself having to explain why you blew up at your spouse or the kids to a judge down the road.

Don’t Give In: Talk with your divorce attorney about your concerns, especially if you are finding it extremely difficult to parent your children all of a sudden. If your ex’s behavior is becoming extreme, and you are seeing your children become anxious or withdrawn because of the constant monitoring of them or of your parenting, you may have to seek court intervention. At the worst, a change in custody might be needed if your children are subjected to too much stress or are being put in the middle of the issues in your divorce. Helicopter parents do not mean to cause fear or anxiety, they are simply dealing with a tremendous amount of their own insecurities.

Get it all in writing: Insist not only on a parenting plan that is in writing, insist on one where you have as much access to your kids as possible. Courts in New Jersey strongly favor the involvement of both parents in a child’s life to the greatest extent possible. Do not be intimidated by your ex or fall for the mistaken belief that you cannot parent as well as them, simply because you parent differently. Put into any parenting agreement that you will both respect each other and the rules in each other’s homes when it comes to parenting time with your children. Also insist that the agreement include a promise to not talk badly or otherwise disparage one another, especially in the presence of the children.

The bottom line is that a good, experienced and trusted family law attorney can help you deal with whatever personality your ex may exhibit. Keep the faith and look toward the future for you and for your kids!

Need more information about parenting plans or custody? Please contact us to schedule your inital consultation with one of our compassionate and experienced family law attorneys  who is ready to help you. Call today: 888-888-0919. 

Read More: 

High Conflict Divorce: When Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work, Try Parallel Parenting

Divorce: Is Your Ex A High-Conflict Personality?

How To Deal With a High-Conflict Co-Parent