You’ve probably put up with your ex’s shenanigans for a long time. At some point you can’t take anymore and you talk to a lawyer about a divorce. Then you get a surprise – your lawyer doesn’t want to hear about all the bad things your ex has been doing. You figure it will come out in court – but there is your next surprise, the judge doesn’t want to hear it either.
To make matters worse, your ex may start pulling out all the stops to make you look bad when they are the ones with the problem! If you aren’t prepared you will be thrown off balance and may end up with even more problems.
Below, find our top 4 things that you should be prepared for when entering a court battle against someone with a personality disorder:
1 – The story changes: when courts (or mediation) hear 2 sides to a story, they figure both sides are equally lying and telling part of the truth. Your ex will use that to their advantage and change the story. Yup, they may outright lie, and get away with it. The worst part, you may be telling the truth but will be treated like you are lying. This is why it is important to get everything in writing with your ex. Using Our Family Wizard or in a writing journal (like our Co-Parenting Journal) may help you a lot. It can call into question so many changed stories.
2 – Purposefully causing arguments: You have probably already dealt with this outside of court, so it may not be a big surprise. Your ex may say just about anything to get a rise out of you, to get you angry. They want you to show how you ‘really’ are in front of the judge or mediator. Don’t fall for the bait. If you raise your voice and start yelling and arguing with your ex you will be done for. To the judge and mediator, you are just as bad as your ex. Anything you try to say in the future will be looked upon skeptically. No matter what, you cannot get angry or raise your voice. No matter what. Talk with your lawyer afterwards but don’t engage your ex in this way.
3 – Not following any gray wording: This one catches a lot of people of guard and gives the ex a lot of wiggle room and loopholes they can abuse. Here’s an example: in your decree it says each party should provide reasonable contact with the ex. Sounds good, except what is exactly meant by reasonable? To someone with narcissism, borderline or some other personality disorder, it means they can contact the kids at any time and as much as they want. Especially when it’s inconvenient for you. And if you don’t agree and immediately comply, they will start yelling contempt and threaten calling the laywers. Not a situation you want. Like almost everything, talk with your lawyer about the wording and why you want it more clearly defined. If they won’t change it, keep track of problems so you can show your lawyer and eventually change it.
4 – Children and divorce poison: This one can be the worst. Your ex may tell your kids all sorts of things like it’s all your fault for the divorce, that you are mean and will hurt them, or even that if the kids tell the lawyers they don’t want to stay with you then they’ll get a pony or ice cream or whatever. Don’t let it happen. Make sure you don’t do anything that is damaging the kids, like talking bad about your ex, and make sure you write down problems. Show the continued issues to your lawyer, show them a pattern, and they will have more to deal with and help you stop it.
There are other things you should do and watch for when at court. Here are a couple of other helpful articles:
We also have a series of books, The Divorce Empowerment series, that has one about high conflict divorce:
High conflict book: 12 coping skills