PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas June 2024

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PAPERCITY PROMOTION the truth. However, they hate being hoisted on their own petards with hard data. Your attorney should be able to help you gather documentation to help you mount an effective case, including tax returns, personal records, business records, school records, medical records, and other data. 2. Timeline Your attorney needs to know the intricacies of your life. Give your attorney a timeline of key events, and keep your attorney informed and updated as events continue to unfold in your case. 3. Team building Divorcing a narcissist may require more than just a good attorney. We may need others on our team. Find an attorney who can help pull others onto the team as needed, including a therapist who can help you establish boundaries with your spouse and help you communicate most effectively with your spouse regarding issues related to your children; a forensic accountant to help evaluate business interests and/or to trace separate property claims; and other appraisers to establish fair market values for jewelry; collectibles (coins, antiques); vehicles, boats, and planes; and livestock. 4. Trauma and Conflict My mother, Lea Felts, who was my paralegal for 16.5 years, used to say, "Principles, they cost money." Don't fight over every issue. Narcissists thrive on conflict. Don't feed the beast! Choose your battles wisely. Divorce cases revolve around love, sex, children, money, and taxes. Divorce can follow a history of abuse in a relationship. Domestic violence and trauma are not confined to the poor; middle- and upper-class families can suffer domestic and economic abuse, as well as verbal abuse. Don't minimize the abuse you may have endured. Give your attorney an honest overview of what life has been like in your home, including any elements of coercive control. 5. Breaking the Bonds of Coercive Control Batterers don't just assault. Narcissists can hit you with more than offensive words; they can engage in battles on multiple fronts. Narcissists can be crafty, simply sticking to behaviors that can constitute stalking and threatening their spouse in other ways that all have the net effect of intimidation. Domestic violence is by its very nature personal; batterers and those who engage in coercive control scare their spouses in a variety of ways. I once represented a lovely woman who was married to a titan of industry; he arguably had narcissistic characteristics. Incited by his pattern of ignoring her, notwithstanding the fact that she was 108 pounds soaking wet, she lobbed a laptop computer straight at his head. Fortunately, he ducked. While your actions should not be violent, spouses of narcissists must break patterns of coercive control. Spouses of narcissists often fail to stand up for themselves because they fear the loss of identity, self-worth, home, income, children, friends, and business interests. Coercive control can include multiple forms of abuse — financial, sexual, physical, and emotional. We recognize these factors when dealing with the elderly; it's time for judges to recognize these factors in divorce cases. Trauma impacts people. Trauma impacts relationships. Trauma impacts divorce. 6. Effective Communication You matter. Your perception matters. Do you have a spouse who puts everything but you first, and you're tired of not talking or being heard? You need an attorney who listens and with whom you can communicate well. 7. Will a Child Custody Evaluator Get It? If you have minor children, you may need a child custody evaluator appointed in your case. A child custody evaluator interviews the parties and their children, visiting the homes of the parties seeking custody. His or her job is to observe the parties and their children during a number of visits, to determine if they see any cause for concern, and to make recommendations to the court. A child custody evaluation is your opportunity to shine. Show the evaluator that you are a good and loving parent. Don't obsess about pointing out every attempt where your narcissistic spouse has tried to gaslight you. Focus on your children, and how you serve their best interests. Narcissists put themselves first; sharp evaluators understand that. The child custody evaluation helps the court determine what is best for your children. Years ago, I represented a mental health professional enmeshed with an alcoholic spouse. While he would provide a better environment in all ways, he could not get past the narcissistic tendency to perceive himself as the smartest fellow in the room. When their teenage son was asked who he preferred to live with, he said his mother. When asked why, the son responded, "Dad is mean to the dog. He kicks the dog. Dad kicks and shoves the dog into the crate. Every day. I hate it." Dad's shiny veneer was scratched. Folks with narcissistic tendencies tend to trip up in the course of the evaluation, despite their desire to fool the world with their smooth facade. 8. Objectivity We are not your cheerleaders. Don't expect a good lawyer to say "yes" to every idea or strategy you present. Your divorce is your business deal: develop a strategy and theme of the case with your attorney. Grandiose narcissists will continue to respond in condescending ways — mere words, no matter how insulting, should not reduce you to similar conduct. A depressed narcissist struggles to maintain equilibrium but will find fault with every solution you present. A covert narcissist sees failure everywhere except in their own perception of the world. 9. The Path Forward Our legal system affords us the ability to litigate disputes. As in war, the legal system is premised on declaring a winner and a loser. However, 97 percent of cases are settled out of court. Look for an attorney who can help you resolve your case, even when dealing with a narcissistic spouse. Narcissists tend to escalate disputes and love to prolong litigation. What's the cost? Great tolls on families, financially, emotionally and in terms of time devoted to litigation rather than to family and to work. Marriages may be irretrievably broken, and the parties may be unable to reconcile; however, an experienced attorney can help you find a path forward to the future. "Navigating a divorce involving a narcissistic spouse requires empowerment and a detail-oriented, client-centered approach," Reiter says. "At Calabrese Budner, LLP, we can help you derail the narcissist, set boundaries with a spouse who has historically felt the rules apply to everyone else but them, and achieve a just and right, fair and equitable resolution of your divorce." Calabrese Budner 75

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