Divorcing a Narcissist in AZ


As a divorce attorney in Arizona, I have seen an increase in the number of women inquiring about dissolution of marriage, Arizona’s term for divorce, from a man they believe to be a narcissist.

Mentally Ill

One of the things that happens in divorces is that the parties will proceed to trial, at great expense, instead of settling, because one of them is making decisions that are irrational. A lawyer sometimes saves such a person by giving them sound advice, but not always. The worst scenario is that the lawyer will take an aggressive stance and carry it through trial. If that happens, the remedy is that the judge can order the unreasonable party to pay attorney’s fees pursuant to A.R.S. Sec. 25-324. It is a somewhat unusual case in which the irrational position is in fact due to mental illness.


Narcissism is a self-centered focus. Narcissism traits exist on a spectrum, and normal people  may have some of the traits.The higher level of traits required to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder is unusual.

The Narcissist

A narcissist may not be able to function normally or rationally in life because of the condition. I had a friend a few years back who was diagnosed a narcissist. He was not one of my clients. I enjoyed talking to him, but I wasn’t the one married to him. His wife was having a very difficult time. His therapist said it could take one to two years for therapy with him, and it may not be effective. His marriage was struggling.

The Solution

Arizona’s legal system functions effectively even for people with narcissism or other mental illness. Hire an attorney who is familiar with the issues. There should be a balance between fair treatment for those with diagnosed mental illness, and fair treatment for the other party. However, if the person who has mental illness is unreasonably increasing the cost of litigation, attorney’s fees can be awarded. Women may also be diagnosed as narcissists. If there are children involved, obtain a mental health evaluation to determine the impact on the children, so the judge will have guidance on the mental health issue. Practically speaking, if there aren’t children, the case will be treated like any other. A narcissist can be ordered to pay attorney’s fees for taking an unreasonable position as easily as anyone else. The court won’t likely spend time wondering whether narcissism or stupidity was the cause of the irrational positions. Seek healing and counseling during and after the divorce, especially if children are involved.

Further Reading

The Narcissim Epidemic, Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D, and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D.

McBride, Karyl. Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family. New York: Atria Paperback, 2015.

MrBride Karyl. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. New York: Atria Paperback, 2013.

Families and Politics

National Political Conventions

In the past two weeks (July, 2016), both political parties had national conventions. The Republican National Convention was held in Cleveland, Ohio, with Donald Trump being nominated for president. The Democratic National Convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Hillary Clinton being nominated for president.

The Importance of Family

The striking thing about both conventions and both candidates is the prominence of their families in the convention process. Both candidates had their wives and children speak. Ivanka Trump introduced her father, Donald Trump, for his convention speech. Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother, Hillary Clinton, for her convention speech.

National Family Law Policy

Their is unity between the parties and candidates on the importance of families. Both candidates supported LGBT rights in their remarks at the convention. Family law policy was not addressed as a significant issue by either candidate, but both candidates emphasized the importance of family.

State Family Law Policy

The individual states have the power to choose between no-fault divorce policy or conventional divorce. Arizona has opted for no-fault divorce laws, allowing a person to divorce without requiring any reason. Arizona requires that the marriage must be irretrievably broken, and allows a right to a hearing. A.R.S. Sec. 25-316. Arizona’s additional key policy provision requires the court to adopt a parenting plan that maximizes parenting time for each parent. A.R.S. Sec. 25-403.02.

Religious Freedom

First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise theof….” The first words in the first amendment to the United States Constitution deal with religion. Our need for religious freedom is great.

Religion and Divorce

Many people do not believe in divorce for religious reasons. While a divorce can be devastating for anyone, it is particularly so for someone who feels divorce is religiously wrong.

No-Fault Divorce

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. A.R.S. Sec. 25-312. There are two powerful forces in conflict: The right of a religious person to protect his or her marriage, and the right of the individual to control both his or her marriage and divorce. Arizona chose the right of any individual to terminate a marriage over religious protection for those who do not believe in divorce.


The legislature put in place safeguards in an effort to protect the religious beliefs as a public policy effort to balance the conflict. The conciliation provisions of A.R.S. Sec. 25-3381.09 were designed to require persons to make an effort at reconciliation. Second, A.R.S. Sec. 25-312(3) requires irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, as defined in A.R.S. Sec. 25-316, and provides a right to a hearing.

Fourteenth Amendment

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Arizona’s statutes must comply with the US Constitution.

Temporary Orders

In Arizona, Temporary Orders allow a party to obtain court orders before a trial is held. It may take months before a trial is set in a divorce case, or in a proceeding to establish legal decision-making, parenting time and child support. Our lawyers handle these cases in Mesa, Phoenix, Gilbert, and Chandler, Arizona.

Temporary Orders

Temporary Orders are issued  pursuant to Rule 47 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. If the parties cannot agree on issues including exclusive use of the residence, legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, relocation, or division of assets and debts, the court will issue orders which are enforceable by the police. The court has 30 days to set a Resolution Management Conference and another 30 to set an evidentiary hearing.

Emergency Orders

Emergency orders, formally known as Temporary Orders Without Notice, are issued pursuant to Rule 48 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. These orders can sometimes be obtained within a few hours or days. The court can issue orders without notice to the other party if irreparable injury will result to the party or child, or to property, and efforts have been given to notice, or there are reasons notice should not be given.

Orders of Protection

Orders of Protection can be entered in domestic violence cases pursuant to A.R.S. 13-3602 if the court finds that there is reasonable cause to believe a person

  • may commit an act of domestic violence
  • has committed an act of domestic violence with the past year
  • has committed an act more than a year earlier if good cause exists to consider the act

Orders of protection can be obtained within a few hours at Superior Court, City Court, or Justice of the Peace courts during business hours.

Exclusive Use of the Residence

It is often difficult for two people in a divorce to live in the same house while the divorce is pending. The court can grant one party exclusive use of the residence while the divorce is pending. After a divorce decree is entered, it will either award the house to a party, or direct the parties to sell the house.

Legal Decision-Making

The court can order that one party may temporarily make decisions for children about schools, medical decisions, and religious decisions.

Parenting Time

The court can enter temporary orders regarding a parenting time schedule, to include equal time, weekends, and/or holiday parenting time.

Child Support

A party who is the primary residential parent, or who has the lower income if there is equal parenting time, can receive court-ordered child support while a divorce is pending. There is always a duty of support for minor children, but having a court order sets a specific amount, and allows enforcement.

Spousal Maintenance

The court can order spousal maintenance on a temporary basis if one party is unable to support himself or herself.


The Preliminary Injunction usually prevents either party from relocating the children once a petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed. The court can enter an order allowing a party to relocate out of state, even before a divorce is final. After court orders have been entered regarding legal decision-making or parenting time, sixty days notice is sometimes required before relocating pursuant to A.R.S. 25-408.

Division of Assets and Debts

The court can temporarily order one party to pay the bills and marital debts, or divide the payments, or can award spousal maintenance to accomplish the same result. Liquid assets, such as checking or savings accounts, can also be divided by court order.

This information is for Arizona only. This post is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney.


Relocation: An Example

A young married couple from California have a two-year-old child. Sarah, the mother, works on computers and builds web sites. The parties divorce by agreement or consent decree, and Joe moves to Mesa to live with his parents. After he is here with the child more than 6 months, Sarah moves to Arizona to start up a small company owned by her family. Joe meets a woman, Rachel, who lives in California and has been building a successful business there for 10 years. They marry, and a baby is due in a couple of months.

Joe files a petition to relocate to California.

Statutory Factors

The parents have joint legal decision-making. Pursuant to A.R.S. 25-408A1, Joe has to give at least sixty days notice before he can move. The factors the court must consider in deciding whether to allow him to relocate to California are:

  1. Factors from A.R.S. 25-403
  2. Relocation made in good faith or to frustrate parenting time
  3. The prospective advantage for parent’s or child’s quality of life
  4. Likelihood residential parent will comply with parenting time orders
  5. Whether realistic parenting time is possible with the move
  6. Whether moving will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child
  7. The motive for moving, including attempting to gain a financial advantage for child support
  8. Affect on child’s stability

The Dilemma
The best interests of the child is normally to have both parents live in the same state. Even better, they might live in the same neighborhood, or within a mile of each other. Relocation is necessary sometimes. Arizona law recognizes the importance of employment. For example, the impact of a child of having a parent or step-parent who earns $80,000 a year in one state, or $20,000 in Arizona (because they can’t find an equivalent job here) will impact many aspects of the child’s well-being and the family’s standard of living. The dilemma here is that the child will be able to live with both parents in Arizona, or the new baby to be born can live with both parents in California.


The only way for everything to work out is for Sarah to relocate to California. Rachel’s business and standard of living have far greater value than Sarah’s, after 10 years of building a business. Sarah was previously employed in California, and can be employed there again. Of course, in reality there are always more factors the court must consider. For example, most of the extended family for Joe and Sarah may live in Arizona. On the other hand, Rachel’s extended family may live in California.

The Importance of Policy

Arizona laws greatly impact families in divorce and relocation matters. The way the laws are enacted should be based on sound policy:

Should there be a policy punishing Joe because he decided to fall in love with and marry someone from another state, causing the dilemma? In other words, should the judge order the child to stay in Arizona? How important to us is the right to marry whom we choose?

How important is employment to a family? Should equal parenting time for both parents be considered over employment?