A parent holds a child's hand, child's drawing, and child custody word blocks

Coparenting with someone who has NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) makes an already complex situation even worse because the other parent is more concerned with his or her interests than what is in the¬†child’s best interests. Child custody and visitation orders are carefully (or contentiously) negotiated documents that detail how divorced parents raise their children. These are legally enforceable orders or agreements and require input and cooperation from both parents to work. However, a narcissistic parent can prolong the emotional and financial turmoil.

Narcissistic-Personality Disorder Explained

NPD is a mental health condition wherein a person lacks empathy for others and has an inflated level of self-importance. NPD is rarely diagnosed because the people afflicted with the disorder usually don’t believe they have a problem and do not seek mental health counseling. NPD expresses itself in the following traits:

  • Inflated self-importance,
  • Express resentment toward others if they disagree with them,
  • Entitlement,
  • Seek constant praise and recognition, and
  • Obsessed with seeking status and success.

Narcissists present themselves initially as charming, but as relationships progress, they struggle to maintain them. Narcissists are usually controlling, manipulative, and self-centered. They frequently engage in ultimatums or all-or-nothing exchanges.

Narcissists and Child Custody and Visitation

These traits typically result in narcissists approaching divorce combatively. For example, they will reject negotiation, insist on litigating as much as possible, and take as many actions as possible to ensure the conflict stays focused on themselves. These strategies also apply to child custody disputes.

The primary legal standard to determine how to apportion or decide child custody and visitation is what is in the best interests of the child. The court weighs the evidence presented and determines what approach is in the best interests of the child. Unfortunately, narcissists may not engage in the process, prolonging and muddying the court record. For example, narcissists may make false accusations, file frivolous petitions for restraining orders, or instigate child welfare investigations.

Coparenting is an ongoing process. It is reliant on both parents engaging in the process in good faith. The court retains jurisdiction. The parties may file motions to alter child custody orders. Narcissists frequently don’t respect the process and use these disputes to focus their attention on themselves rather than their children. Narcissists will use the process as much as possible to provoke unfavorable reactions to prejudice the court against the other parent. Managing a narcissist begins and ends with staying calm.