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Divorcing a narcissistic spouse

Divorce

No fault divorce is due to be enacted in April 2022. This will hopefully result in a decrease in acrimony and will hopefully reduce the number of defended divorces. Until that time, you may be able to reach agreement between yourselves as to anodyne but qualifying reasons to demonstrate why your marriage has broken down. However, there may be instances where your partner may refuse to agree to a divorce or only agree on their terms.  

If your partner refuses to contemplate divorce, you can still apply although be mindful that they may contest this, involving additional costs and a further hearing. though this does not mean that you will be trapped in a marriage by a partner with this personality type. Yes, it may be a case of grasping the nettle, it could well be more expensive and time consuming but with the right advice and strategic guidance, no one should resign themselves to staying in a relationship because the other side is likely to make things difficult.  

If they propose terms that you are not offended by and are not problematic, you may be content to agree to progress the divorce and return your acknowledgment of service, noting that you do not agree with the reasons cited. However, we would recommend that you consult with solicitors before doing so. 

Correspondence

You do not need to respond to every letter and every point. We have worked on matters where reams of correspondence have been sent by a party hoping to:  

  • Present their narrative, which unsurprisingly painted them in a wholly flattering lights; and  

  • Was aimed at making the divorce and settlement of financial division as painful and expensive as possible for my client.  

You do not have to respond and no response can sometimes be the most appropriate strategic call. Carefully consider the proportionality and cost of responding and look to correct facts where necessary but avoid the temptation of mudslinging. Discuss with your legal team the key arguments and the factors that the court will consider and try and only respond to letters that address these issues.  

Alternative dispute resolution

Although you are likely to want to ensure proceedings are concluded as swiftly as possible, you should be wary of agreeing to forums such as mediation if you do not feel that you will be on a level playing field when it comes to negotiation. We have acted for clients who have got to the stage of litigation fatigue and decide to agree to settlement terms provided by their spouse simply to allow them to move on. This approach can be tempting, but it is crucial not to succumb to being worn down by the other side as it can be very difficult, time consuming and expensive to try and get out of such agreements.  

Make your legal team aware of your partners character

As noted above, it is highly unlikely that you will need to provide the court with a medical report, however, this knowledge can be used to inform the case strategy. For example, if they are going to look to draw proceedings out for as long as possible, making open offers at appropriate junctures could potentially offer a degree of cost protection. Given that these are open, meaning any judge at any stage can read them (unlike without prejudice offers), you should consult with your legal team as to the timings and parameters of such offers. If you are able to make such offers, you can hopefully demonstrate to the court that you have been as reasonable and as proactive in trying to negotiate as possible. There may even be scope to argue that the other sides conduct may be relevant if they have failed to appropriately engage in negotiation.  

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