By Ebony Morris, Australian Family Lawyers

Navigating co-parenting arrangements can be difficult enough as is, but when your ex-partner is a narcissist, it can be even harder. In some instances, it may not even be possible.

During their divorce proceedings, Kanye West has repeatedly made public social media posts aimed at ex Kim Kardashian and her new boyfriend Pete Davidson.

At Australian Family Lawyers, we recommend creating an agreement in writing such as a parenting plan or consent order with your ex-partner, whereby you can put in structures and regimes with respect to time spending and arrangements.

We find that when clients have ex-partners who display narcissistic traits, having such agreements and details in agreements can reduce the contact and communication required between you if this is not possible.

Ebony Morris has been working in Family Law for over seven years and is passionate about assisting people during what can be an emotional and stressful period in their life.

What is narcissism, and how can you recognise it?

Unfortunately, usually by the time you recognise a current or ex-partner is a narcissist it can be quite late in the relationship and might even be quite confronting.

Narcissism is a personality disorder and is characterised by extreme self-involvement to the disregard or detriment of others. According to Mayo Clinic, despite an extreme confidence, their fragile self-esteem can be vulnerable to even the slightest criticism.

Depending on the individual, signs and symptoms might range from borderline to very intense. If you’ve noticed the below with your ex-partner, it might be possible they’re a narcissist:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement
  • Requiring excessive attention or admiration
  • Unwillingness or inability to understand the needs or feelings of others
  • Preoccupied with success or achievement and intent on having the “best”
  • Belittling those who they perceive as inferior

“Narcissism isn’t always black and white. Its variations fall on a spectrum. Generally, if the person is severe enough to be diagnosed with narcissism, they could have a grandiose sense of self and be extremely self-focused.

“If you’re dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, it’s of paramount importance that you take steps to protect your children, yourself and your emotional well-being,” explains Clinical Psychologist Colleen Respondek.

What can co-parenting with a narcissist look like?

As a Family Lawyer, we usually see narcissistic ex-partners trying to get a rise or reaction once they’ve lost control of a situation. But this ongoing hostility can impact your ability to effectively co-parent where there are ongoing arrangements for the children to spend time between both households.

Other things that can occur post separation or divorce as you try to co-parent with a narcissistic ex-partner are that they might:

  • Try to ruin your relationship with your shared child or with others
  • Attempt to regain their grandiose sense of self by hurting their ex-partner
  • Beg or plead with you to reconsider, assuring you that they’ve changed

It can be difficult to navigate parenting arrangements that may be in your children’s best interest when dealing with a narcissistic ex and an agreement in writing may not always stop that hostility completely.

However, there is often little one can do to change that behaviour of a person as narcissists may deny there is an issue, and in turn refuse to address any concerns raised, especially by their ex-partner.

In these circumstances it can be helpful to engage in your own support to deal and respond to such behaviour and if your ex is agreeable, the following may also be of assistance in navigating and attempting to improve that relationship:

  • Engaging in Family Counselling/therapy, which is a method to develop and maintain health and functional family relationships even post separation.
  • Engaging with a Parenting coordinator, which is a child-focussed process for conflicted separated parents and is essentially a dispute resolution technique to help parents organise their ongoing parenting arrangements.

Depending on the content of any public posts, there can be consequences for publishing degrading comments about an ex-partner.

What can you do?

In order to make the co-parenting arrangement as harmonious as possible, you should consult a Family Lawyer, as well as:

  • Keep interactions and communications business-like – try not to let your emotions become involved
  • Focus on the big picture – choose your battles wisely, but don’t compromise too much
  • Keep records and proof of important documents, agreements, etc as well as any harassment
  • Maintain boundaries with them – including having changeovers at children’s school to limit contact and or a public place, limit communication to matters in relation to the children only, communicate by means of a parenting application or a specific email for those communications so that you are separating such communication from your day-to-day texting.

There are circumstances where ongoing care arrangements with a narcissist cannot work as they are at a point where such actions impact the wellbeing of the children, however, such behaviour would have to be so extreme to warrant a child no longer spending any time at all with that parent due to an unacceptable risk of harm.

In order to make the co-parenting arrangement as harmonious as possible, you should consult a Family Lawyer.

Our recommendation – Parallel parenting

A parallel parenting style may be appropriate when you are dealing with a narcissistic ex. According to Psychology Today, parallel parenting is an arrangement where separated parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.

This type of parenting can be through arrangements as outlined earlier in this piece such as having changeover at school to limit contact between you both, communicating about parenting matters only and through a parenting application and having a structured and detailed agreement in place, which requires limited means of having to reach agreements outside of that agreement in writing.

WATCH: Dr. Dehra Haris’ tips on divorce with kids. Continues after video …

Are there legalities and consequences for fractured families when the parties publicly air animosities?

Over the last few years, technology and social media has become a big way in how we communicate and publicly express our views and opinions about certain situations and issues, which can often extend to matters involving the breakdown of a relationship.

Whilst social media can be great tool in some instances, it can extend the forms of harassment from a narcissist or anyone and be an extended way for a narcissist to attempt to denigrate and degrade you to others. Depending on the content of any public posts, there can be consequences for publishing degrading comments about an ex-partner, exposing the other party/parent or publishing about court proceedings that may be before the court.

If your ex-partner is posting publicly about you and denigrating you publicly, this may fall under an act of domestic violence abuse. You can seek certain orders through domestic violence proceedings and family law proceedings restricting such publication and in turn, if that person continues to post such content and there is an order in place, they may be breached and are at risk of being criminally charged for a breach of a domestic violence order.

Kanye West’s continued public statements about their breakup have left Kim Kardashian exhausted and their co-parenting relationship under duress.

If your ex-partner is posting publicly about your parenting or property proceedings, s121 of the Family Law Act outlines that such action is an offence if a person publishes such information publicly. Section 121 outlines where they identify a party to the proceedings, a person who is related to, or associated with, a party to the proceedings, or a witness in a proceeding, is breaching such section and a party can seek a contravention of the order where consequences can be enforced by the Court.

Need more information?

If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, sound preparation and professional help is advised. Book a free consultation with our supportive, dedicated team at Australian Family Lawyers.