Separating And Divorcing from a Partner who has a Personality Disorder
Many of us have, at some point, reached a point of no return - when you know despite your best efforts, staying together isn't going to work out.
Leaving someone who suffers from a personality disorder isn't always easy. Some of you may face harsh consequences, threats or false accusations just for raising the subject of separation with your spouse or significant other. Others may experience their partner begging or pleading with them to stay. You may also have to deal with combinations of both extremes.
Others have children, whom they want to protect and shelter, but whom they fear will become victims in the process.
It’s also common for people to be caught in the middle – undecided as to whether it is better to stay or to go - trying to decide between the lesser of two evils. The finality of the decision can be an enormous burden, and if you’re struggling with it, you’re not alone. Many of us have been there.
Here are a few things to consider when you are considering leaving or divorcing a personality-disordered partner:
Put Children First - Put Children First means making decisions based on "what is in the best interests of the children", regardless of the consequences for the parents and any other parties involved.
Personal Safety - Personal Safety is a list of actions that are designed to keep situations from escalating and to make sure that Physical, Emotional and Verbal abuse is avoided or stopped at the first moment it begins to happen. It contains ideas on when to stop the conversation, when to leave the room and when to call the police.
Leaving Checklist - The Leaving Checklist is a list of things to prepare and things to consider before, during and after separating from a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
During Separation or Divorce
The Divorce process is generally all about two issues:
Who gets custody of the children
Division of the marital assets
The first issue is the most complex and generally the most contentious. If there are children involved, it generally takes priority in the eyes of most parties and in the eyes of the court. The results of the child custody case will also have some bearing on the financial settlement since the person who is looking after the children is generally considered to need more financial support.
Cases which do not involve children are generally resolved as a division of financial assets. In general, it will be the intent of the court to divide the assets in the most mathematically equitable way possible. In most cases the behavior of the two people involved in the marriage prior to the divorce will not be taken into consideration when dividing assets, unless it can be demonstrated that the circumstances of the relationship have caused future financial hardship on one of the parties.
A good rule of thumb is to assume that whatever marital assets were held by the couple prior to the divorce will be split 50-50. Some states have a common property law, which effectively says that any property held during the marriage is jointly owned by both parties.
Special consideration, in the form of alimony or spousal support , may be given to spouses who are judged by the court to have sacrificed career opportunities in order to support the other spouse or the children of the marriage. Laws vary significantly from state to state.
By far the most complex of cases are divorces involving personality disordered individuals which include disputes over the custody of minor children.
Every case is as individual as the DNA of the parties involved, so it is impossible to tell you exactly what will happen. However, there are a number of patterns or trends which are common to most of these cases.
Finding an Attorney - Finding an attorney who knows how to handle cases involving people who suffer from personality disorders is crucial. This article explores some of the things you should consider if you are looking for an attorney.
Guardian ad litem - A Guardian ad litem is a professional (often an attorney or social worker) appointed by a court to represent a child's interests in a legal proceeding or custody dispute. The Latin term ad litem literally means "for the trial" or "for the proceeding"
Custody Evaluation - A Custody Evaluation is a procedure ordered by a court in a custody case in which a professional is appointed to recommend to the judge which custody arrangement is in the best interest of the minor children.
Psychological Evaluation - A Psychological Evaluation is a procedure, typically carried out as part of a court proceeding, in which a mental health professional is appointed by the court to determine a diagnosis or label for a person's psychology, behavior or personality and to make recommendations which a judge can take into account when making a ruling.
Settlement - A Settlement is a mutually agreed upon resolution to a legal dispute which is worked out between both parties prior to a ruling being made by a judge.
Parental Alienation Syndrome - A term used to describe the process by which one parent, typically divorced or separated from the other biological parent, uses their influence to make a child believe that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.
Sexual Allegations in Divorce (SAID) - Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID) is a common occurrence in disputed child custody cases in which one parent makes false or exaggerated claims about sexual abuse of a minor child at the hands of the other parent.
Child Abduction - Child Abduction is a serious, yet common occurrence when people who suffer from personality disorders become involved in a custody dispute. Approximately 82% of more than 200,000 child abductions every year are perpetrated by family members.
Many people believe that mothers are naturally better caregivers than fathers. And the US courts seem to agree. US Divorce Statistics show that a divorcing mother is 7 times more likely to retain sole custody of her children than a father:
Co-parenting - Co-parenting (or Coparenting) means sharing physical or legal custody of a child when you are separated or divorced.
Parallel Parenting - Parallel Parenting is a form of parenting in which a divorced couple assume or are assigned specific parental duties while minimizing or eliminating contact with each other, thus minimizing exposure of the children to potential conflict.
Taking the long term view.
If you're already in the process or just considering leaving a person with a personality disorder, chances are you are feeling frustrated and scared and just want to be left in peace.
You may find yourself looking for short cuts - "How can I just get rid of this", "Maybe I could just run away", This is my life and nobody has the right to tell me what to do". These feelings are very common for someone in your situation.
Unfortunately the legal process is a slow one. Most divorces involving children and personality-disordered individuals take 1-2 years to be resolved. Some take longer.
It helps to look at the long term and decide where you want to be in 5 years from now. Things are likely to get worse, not better, immediately after you play the divorce card. You may face all kinds of threats and accusations that you never imagined. Others of you will be "hoovered" and offered the world by your spouse or significant other if you will just stay and work things out. You need to keep your eye on what is in the best interests of your children and yourself long-term.
It can also be helpful to think about what you will say to your children when they are older. Will you be able to look them in the eye and say "I did the best I could for you"? When many years have passed the ability to say that may be more important to you than any short or medium term goals that you have right now.
Don't go it alone.
Leaving a spouse or partner who suffers from a personality disorder can be one of the loneliest experiences in the world. Yes, you are leaving behind some of the chaos and fear but you are also giving up on "the dream" of a happy relationship and you will grieve and mourn for the loss of something that was important to you. Many people feel guilt because they are abandoning their post as caretaker of the person who suffers from a personality disorder. You may feel responsible for what happens to that person after you are gone. You may feel an overwhelming sense of failure as you reflect on marriage vows, promises made, good intentions unfulfilled. You may regret having brought children into a world full of chaos.
These feelings are normal. Many of us find ourselves going through some - or all - of the "five stages of grief" as we try to come to terms with our situation.
This is a time to surround yourself with as much support as you can – from sound legal representation and advice to good friends, responsible and supportive family members, support groups, message boards like this, therapists and counselors. You will go through the roller coaster of emotions. Fill your life with as many strong allies and good things as you can to help you cope.
There is a life after leaving or divorcing. You will lose something, but at the end you can find yourself on the other side, out of the FOG - the fear, obligation and guilt. Making your own decisions, no longer trying to push the rock up the hill. Separation may only be the lesser of two evils, but it is still better to choose the lesser.
Many of us have walked the path you are on, and survived, won our children, our security and our dignity. We salute those of you who are still on the road and wish you our best.
"SPLITTING" is designed for anyone facing a high conflict divorce, whether or not your spouse meets the criteria for a Borderline or Narcissistic Personality. Its explanations of WHAT TO EXPECT in Family Court and WHAT TO DO to protect yourself and your children, can be used by anyone, including your attorney, your therapist, your family and others involved in your case.
"You're My World" is a 3-CD package with information and advice for individuals who are involved in custody disputes with people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. The CD features an extended interview by Randi Kreger, co-author of "Stop Walking on Eggshells" of Ken Lewis, Ph.D., a Registered Custody Evaluator who specializes in interstate cases and James Paul Shirley, MSW, a therapist with 15 years of experience with personality disorders.
Five years ago, a photographer, an engineer, a writer, an office manager, a grandmother, a graphic artist, a law student, a husband, a librarian, and a stained-glass artisan came together to connect a diverse, isolated population in search of information, support, and growth as they strive to cope with a family members, spouses or partners who suffer from a personality disorder. Since its launch on November 1, 2007, Out Of The FOG has grown from a fledgling discussion group with 10 participants, to a vibrant community of over 4000 registered members world-wide, with new members joining every day.
On August 31 2012, the Out of the FOG Support Forum crossed two significant milestones - 100,000 member posts and 10,000 topics. Thanks to all who participate and contribute to the OOTF support board, which is a unique source of support to non-personality-disordered individuals all over the world.