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Should you even try custody mediation with a narcissist ex?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2022 | Divorce, Family Law |

If you’re filing for divorce or a determination of custody case in North Carolina, you may have little choice but to try mediation because the courts will refer you to it. That’s not a bad thing. Settling your custody issues out of court is usually best, and mediation can help many people do that.

Mediation is an out-of-court process where you try to come to agreement on some or all of the issues in your case. A neutral third-party called a mediator helps the parties communicate effectively. Then, the parties come to their own resolution.

The issues you resolve in mediation don’t have to be decided by a judge, as long as they comply with North Carolina law. You only have to go to court to have the agreement approved.

But what if your children’s other parent is a narcissist?

A narcissist is a type of person who is so self-absorbed they find it difficult to think of or respect other people’s needs. They lack empathy. They fight to get what they want, no matter the cost. They can be selfish. They may have a long history of lying. As such, they may be less able than other people to engage thoughtfully and productively in the mediation process.

Whether your ex has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder by a professional or merely shows some traits of the disorder, you may face an uphill battle in mediation. Developing a resolution in mediation requires a degree of trust, and you just may not have that.

An uphill battle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Here are a few tips

Get a lawyer who can explain what would likely happen if your case went to court. Understand what you can reasonably expect and what to ask for in mediation.

Take the high road. Don’t engage in any mudslinging, even in retaliation. This will deprive the narcissist of evidence against you.

Collect evidence of the narcissistic behavior. Your old emails and texts could be revealing about your ex’s behavior. This could be important if the narcissist tries to convince everyone that you are in the wrong.

Focus on what you need, not what the narcissist might do next. Don’t let them be the center of everything. Instead, focus on what’s best for your kids.

Refuse to communicate about the case except in mediation. While you still have to co-parent, there’s no reason to give the narcissist a chance to threaten or coerce you.

Don’t give up. The point of the narcissist’s abuse is to break you down so you give up. Don’t give them that power.

One option is shuttle mediation

According to Mediate.com, shuttle mediation may be a path to success for people who can trust their ex to follow court orders but who can’t communicate well in person.

This process allows you to communicate one-on-one with the mediator and have him or her relate your position to your ex. If your proposal is not acceptable, your ex may give the mediator a counter-proposal. The mediator then goes back and forth to the parties until an agreement is reached or it becomes obvious no agreement can be reached.

Not every mediator will engage in shuttle mediation, however, so you will have to identify one who does and get your ex to agree to use that person.

Get the help and support you need

If you’re in a custody dispute with a narcissist, be sure to take care of yourself. Things could get ugly. You may want to work with a therapist or get engaged in a support group.

Be sure, as well, to work with an attorney who is compassionate and will go the extra mile for you and your children.


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