Parenting With a Narcissist After a Divorce

mother and young child
Mar 5, 2024 | Content

When you divorce a narcissist, you are probably eager to put the drama and craziness behind you. If you have children together, that unfortunately may not be possible. Narcissists rarely change, so you will need to adapt to their behaviors and insulate your children to the extent you can.

Only a small percentage of the population meets the criteria for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). But a much larger percentage have narcissistic personality traits that make developing and maintaining healthy relationships challenging. Rely on your personal support system, including your divorce attorney, to help you through the rough patches.

Make a Parenting Plan That Is Right for Your Children and Enforce It

Divorcing parents must submit a detailed parenting plan to the court. If they cannot agree, both parents will submit a plan and the judge will either choose one or create their own plan that they must follow.

Narcissists are often unable to negotiate and compromise. You may find your co-parent seeking more parenting time than they actually want just to thwart you. In that situation, your best bet might be to withdraw from negotiations and create a separate parenting plan. According to the Official Code of Georgia §19-9-3, parenting plans must be focused on the children’s best interests. Narcissists have difficulty identifying with anyone’s interests but their own, so they may have trouble coming up with an acceptably child-focused arrangement, and the judge might choose your preferred plan.

Once the judge has approved a parenting plan and issued it as an enforceable order, you must keep track of your co-parent’s compliance. Make notes whenever they cancel visits, are early or late for pickup and dropoff, or violate any of the rules you set in the parenting plan. If your co-parent shows a tendency to ignore the plan and do whatever is convenient for them—typical for a narcissist—speak with your divorce lawyer. Taking your co-parent to court to enforce the order might be necessary.

Protecting Your Children Without Causing More Harm

Narcissists love their children and children love their parents, even difficult parents. The problem is that narcissists are so focused on themselves that they cannot see that the children’s best interests might be different from theirs. Your children will need a strong advocate to stand up for their needs when the narcissist is ignoring them or steamrolling over them.

However, respecting your children’s relationship with their narcissistic parent is critical. Resist the urge to badmouth or criticize your co-parent in front of the children, even when you know your co-parent is badmouthing you to them. Explain your co-parent’s behavior to the children in age-appropriate terms they can understand. Perhaps tell them that their parent is still hurt or angry about the divorce and lashes out at you because they do not know a better way of managing their big feelings.

Depending on the kind of narcissistic behavior your co-parent employs, you could be concerned about your children’s safety with them. If so, contact your attorney to find out whether an emergency temporary modification of the parenting plan is appropriate. In cases that do not rise to that level, your attorney might contact their attorney to discuss the issue and try to resolve it. Trying to work it out with the narcissist directly is often counter-productive.

Parallel Parenting Could Be an Option

When a divorce is high conflict and interactions between you and your co-parent are physically or emotionally unsafe, parallel parenting might be a solution to consider. In a parallel parenting arrangement, both parents have time with the children but have little to no direct interaction with each other.

In a parallel parenting arrangement, the parents usually alternate attending children’s events and activities so they avoid contact with each other. They also might alternate holidays. Parallel parenting arrangements give children the benefit of significant time with each parent while protecting them from exposure to conflict.

Allocating decision-making responsibility can be challenging in parallel parenting situations because communication is so difficult. Our attorneys can advise you about whether asking for sole decision-making authority is advisable. Another possibility is to designate the power to make decisions on some issues to one parent and other issues to the other parent.

Work With Your Attorney to Develop a Workable Plan to Parent With a Narcissist

You survived being married to a narcissist, and you can survive parenting with a narcissist after a divorce. It will not be easy, but with preparation, strong boundaries, and a skilled attorney, you can find a way to make it work.

The most important thing is to keep your children’s best interests always in the front of your mind. When situations get challenging, the Atlanta Divorce Law Group is always ready to brainstorm solutions. Call today.

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