As a divorce attorney in Mesa, 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Narcissim Epidemic, Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D, and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D.
MrBride Karyl. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. New York: Atria Paperback, 2013.