Cluster B personality disorders, whether diagnosed or not, are the common denominators in high-conflict divorce and custody battles. The three disorders that are most common in conflict are: Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorders (more common in males than in females) as well as Borderline Personality Disorder (more common with females than with males). With each of these three Cluster B disorders, there is a pronounced lack of empathy and a repeated testing of laws, rules, and personal boundaries. The disordered individual views child support and financial obligations as a weapon to hurt and control the healthy parent, even when they have the means and financial resources to support their children. There is a high level of manipulation to meet their own needs which fluctuates with their mood or state of mind. In addition, there is often fraud or other criminal activities. Substance abuse and other forms of mental disorders often go hand in hand with Cluster B disorders. Any of these pervasive issues should pose as a “red flag” to court professionals.
The narcissist, when compared to a dead-beat parent, is a welcomed relief to the court because they show interest in being a part of their child’s life. This portrayed interest is the furthest thing from the truth. At OMB, we refer to this as the courtroom mask – the narcissist is wearing a mask in the courtroom or when the eyes of a court professional are upon them. This is where it is critical to pay attention to words versus actions. It is imperative that Family Court professionals begin to err on the side of caution whenever there are claims of abuse, whether the abuse is emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, legal or financial – abuse is abuse.
It is imperative that family court professionals understand the intricacies of Domestic Violence (DV). DV is more than just physical abuse. During the relationship, abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial. When the relationship ends, the abuse transitions to a new form of abuse referred to as post-separation abuse.
Post-separation abuse often surpasses the DV that victims are subjected to while under the same roof. When the relationship ends, the perpetrator sets their sights on the child(ren) to exert control and, to terrorize the healthy parent. Every high-conflict custody battle has three basic narratives: the abuser’s need for control, the abuser’s need to “win” and, the abuser’s desire to hurt or punish the healthy parent.
Post-separation abuse includes: counter-parenting, neglectful or abusive parenting, isolation, harassment, stalking, intimidation, legal abuse and financial abuse.