Marin Family Law Attorney: How to Co-Parent with a Narcissist

The best answer is that there is no easy way to co-parent with a narcissist. In fact, the best San Francisco / Marin County family law attorney and therapist will not make this type of co-parenting easy. Because a narcissistic co-parent’s goal is to create conflict, they are fundamentally unable to put their children first. So, they make impossible co-parents. Thus, having a San Francisco family lawyer who understands your co-parent’s narcissistic behaviors will help you to get a strong legal strategy to deal with their manipulation.

Just because a person is a narcissist doesn’t mean they lose child custody. In fact, the state of California favors joint physical and legal custody when both parents agree to it. If parents don’t agree, the court has the widest discretion possible to design a parenting plan that is in a child’s best interests. If your ex is “too into himself,” “vain” or “selfish,” he or she may have the trait of narcissism. However, although narcissism is a trait, it can also be a personality disorder

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? 

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“NPD”) as consisting of a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Signs You are Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

As a Marin County family law attorney, I have often heard my clients complain that they are co-parenting with a narcissist. Although the word “narcissist” gets thrown around to describe regular selfish-type ex-spouses, there are people that have severe personality disorders. While co-parenting with a narcissist (or just a selfish person) is horrible, if you are co-parenting with a person with a narcissistic personality disorder you may need professional help. Some of the signs of narcissistic personality disorder are as follows:

  • Lack of empathy
  • They believe that they are special and unique and can only be understood by similar people
  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • Unrealistic fantasies of success, power, beauty, or brilliance
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative behavior


Do you find these symptoms relatable? Perhaps your ex has accused you of being a narcissist? In either case, compassion is essential. As you will read below, sometimes narcissistic personality disorder is acquired by a childhood of abuse and mistreatment. You are taking the first right step in learning about the disorder and its symptoms. The next step is to protect yourself and learn how to set and enforce healthy boundaries.

Types of Narcissism in a Co-Parent

There are two subtypes of subclinical narcissism: grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism. Both subtypes have self-centeredness as a core feature, but it is expressed differently.

Grandiose Narcissism

People with grandiose narcissism are egotistical, superior, and entitled. Generally, they were raised to believe they were better than others. As they age, this feeling intensifies. Thus, they are true ego-maniacs. These narcissists float above the rest of us.

Vulnerable Narcissism

Vulnerable narcissists tend to be self-absorbed, highly neurotic, and hypersensitive even to gentle criticism. Thus, these narcissists have a constant need for reassurance.  Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism are often two states that present in a narcissist.

Strategies for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

If you are co-parenting with a narcissist, you probably know that their behavior can be devastating. It is hard to accept how selfishness and manipulation can affect your child. However, you are not alone. An experienced Marin County Family Law Attorney can help you form a plan to keep your co-parenting relationship as healthy as possible.  While there might not be one way to deal with this behavior, the following can be helpful:

  • Document everything:  If your ex does something abusive or manipulative, write it in a journal. Keep your journal in a safe place.  If you write down what happened you create a record. Documents speak for themselves and can avoid the she said / she said situation.
  • Do not negotiate or mediate with a narcissistic co-parent as Narcissists do not want to cooperate. In fact, efforts to cooperate give a narcissist the opportunity to create more drama.  So Contact an experienced family law lawyer that can negotiate on your behalf.
  • Maintain Minimal Contact: If you have children and a parenting plan, some contact is necessary. However, there are various applications such as Our Family Wizard that you can use to avoid direct contact with your ex. Your attorney should have resources available to make contact safer and easier.  
  • Therapy: It may be necessary for you and your child to attend therapy. If a parent has a personality disorder it can have a huge impact on children. If you are having difficulty co-parenting with this narcissist, it is likely that your child is also struggling. You may need a court order to attend therapy. Contact a Marin County Family Law Attorney for assistance.

Marin County Family Law Attorneys Experienced with Narcissistic Co-Parents

If you know you are dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, the best thing to do is seek experienced legal advice from a top family law lawyer who is familiar with this difficult personality disorder.  If you seek an affordable San Francisco Bay Area family law attorney, contact us for a free consultation. Warren Major LLP can help you set strategies to disempower the narcissist and demand healthier co-parenting.

Disclaimer: Warren Major LLP’s blog articles on its website for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Warren Major LLP or the individual author. This general information is not a substitute for legal advice on any subject matter. For advice pertaining to your specific case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Using this information or sending electronic mail to Warren Major LLP or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements pertaining to past results do not guarantee future results.

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