This fascinating talk (28/06/16) focused on the legal aspects of the divorce process and the psychological impact of divorce, particularly when one party has narcissistic personality traits. Dr Angela Smith set out her Golden Rules for dealing with a partner with narcissistic personality:

  • Separate yourself from the narcissistic behaviour;
  • Set boundaries between yourself and your partner: be consistent in your approach, be clear with the facts and set boundaries (so that emotion is taken out of your dealings with your partner) and control your emotions in all forms of communication that you have with them;
  • Outline what is acceptable through your consistent approach and make clear the consequences of their unacceptable behaviour.

She also warned against treating your lawyer as your therapist and advised those going through divorce to choose their battles carefully.

Dr Smith shared her concern that using mediation to resolve family disputes can be difficult when your partner has narcissistic personality traits. They can abuse the process because they will know that matters discussed in mediation are confidential and cannot be alluded to in any court proceedings. She referred to the Legal Abuse Syndrome theory of Dr Karin Huffer. Over time those living with partners with narcissistic personality traits will lose their confidence and appear confused, losing their decision making abilities.

Laura Rosefield examined the legal framework of divorce. She explained the ground for divorce and the five facts that evidence it. She urged those going through divorce to treat it as a business transaction and to be as dispassionate as possible about the discussions. Engage a financial adviser earlier rather than later. Change your will and if you have assets that are in joint names make sure that they are transferred into your sole name once the division of property is agreed. Arrange to have a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Be mindful of the tone of your language about the children. Each child has a right to see their other parent and obstacles should not be put in their way to frustrate this. Consider engaging a child psychologist to advise you about the best way to handle your children.

Dr Smith then talked about parenting after divorce. She advised not to push your children into talking about the divorce. Don’t make negative statements about the other parent to the child. Hold your children accountable for their behaviour with consistent boundaries. And be careful about jumping into a new relationship too quickly. Most importantly, don’t share all of your fear and anxiety about the divorce with your child. Use the welfare checklist to make proposals concerning arrangements for your children. The family organisational plan is also a useful resource. Both can be found on the internet.

Dr Smith finally talked about the 4 stages involved in developing resilience in divorce: survival, adaptation, recovery and growth. The final stage will see you wiser but, not necessarily, happier!

Our market leading team of family lawyers, mediators and family consultants provide insightful advice of the highest quality to help you resolve the family law issues that you face. For more information, contact any of the Family Law in Partnership lawyers at or T: 0207 420 5000.