If you are divorcing from someone with a personality disorder, you have a double challenge in front of you. Not only do you need to negotiate the regular aspects of divorce, which can be difficult enough, but you have to deal with a soon-to-be ex who has a basic personality defect that can't be treated medically like mental illnesses. Read on to learn tips for making it through divorce court when your spouse has a personality disorder.
Know How the Public Perceives Personality Disorders
Just because you may have unfortunately had to learn everything there is to know about personality disorders doesn't mean the general public has. Many people confuse personality disorders with conditions like depression. Most people aren't aware that personality disorders can't be treated with medication and that your spouse is unlikely to get better.
This situation may be exacerbated by the fact that many personality disordered individuals never receive a formal diagnosis, even though their behavior clearly demonstrates many of the criteria used by mental health professionals.
Be Ready for the Blame Game
Because one of the hallmarks of personality disorders is manipulation of others, and because your spouse may save most of their worst behavior for you, other people may not be aware of your spouse's disorder. Your spouse may try to paint you as the villain and use triangulation, a common personality disorder tactic, to recruit friends, neighbors, school teachers, coworkers, pediatricians, and even your own family against you.
If your spouse is a narcissist, their ego may not be able to handle your divorce, and they may instigate a smear campaign against you to "win." Kids, pets, and property can be used as pawns too. If your spouse has a histrionic or borderline personality, you may find yourself blamed for their anxiety, breakdown, inability to carry on, or even suicide attempts.
Make Careful Documentation of Everything
It's wise, given the above, to make careful note of everything you can use in court, not necessarily to go on the offensive, but just to defend yourself to get what you deserve in terms of split property and custody of any children. Don't delete any email or text messages, especially if they show your spouse in their true light. Write down any missed appointments with the kids, threats, or previous episodes of abuse.
If you are stalked, if you have your safety or life threatened, or if there are suicide threats made, contact the police. You may need to have a restraining order served, and if you have children, you will need to think about their health and welfare too.
Organize Financial Records
Make sure to keep meticulous copies of your financial records, and don't let your spouse get control of them just because they bully you or have always done the family bookkeeping. You don't want them hiding assets or going wild with your bank account before the divorce proceeds are decided. Set up your own account in your name only as soon as you decide to divorce, and make sure you keep money in it, such as direct deposits from your work, in case of emergency.
Find an Attorney Who Understands Personality Disorders
Probably the most important thing you can do is to find an attorney who is familiar with personality disorders and has litigated similar cases to yours. Unfortunately, if you have children, you may be back in court for a long time with your disordered spouse, so you want someone who understands the condition and with whom you can have a long-term rapport.
If your spouse makes personal communication impossible, consider going "no contact" and having all conversations take place either via your attorney or with your attorney present. You do not want to undergo mediation with a personality disordered spouse as they are too manipulative for this to be a fair process.
Get Psychological Support
Another vital step is to get counseling for yourself with a professional who also has worked with "nons," the non-disordered partners of individuals with personality disorders. You can learn techniques to stay cool in court and deal with rage, drama, or tears. If you can hold your ground calmly and coolly, there's a good chance your spouse will reveal their true colors in court, and you will be vindicated.
Divorce from a personality disordered spouse can be arduous, but it doesn't have to ruin your life or drag on forever. As soon as you decide to divorce, find a family law attorney who can help you; the sooner you do that, the sooner you can move on with your life in a healthier way.