Child Support and the Narcissist Parent
If you believe that your narcissist spouse will want to pay child support in order to prove to the world what a good person they are, think again. Extracting child support is not going to be easy. A narcissist spouse will fight the concept of paying you anything for the children with whatever lies and manipulation of the legal process they can muster. They are likely to pay slow or not at all even if you have a very clear court order requiring it. A narcissist doesn’t think about the needs of their children. You may stay up nights worrying about whether your kids can go to summer camp or keep up ballet lessons after your divorce, but your ex won’t.
He or she won’t think about those issues at all, nor will they be troubled by the question of whether they have a roof over their heads or enough to eat. They will use the kids as pawns to hurt you during the divorce, but once it’s over and they have moved on to another relationship, they may not think of you and the kids at all. Putting their money into raising your children conflicts directly with their personal beliefs. That’s narcissism for you.
The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a personality disorder in which someone has “an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. People with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Conveniently for the narcissist, the lack of empathy that is part of this disorder helps them avoid any feelings of guilt or chagrin at stunting their kids. Taking care of others is simply not high on their priority list unless the “others” are in a position of power or have something that they want. Since children are not powerful, child support payments to support them won’t get a lot of their attention, unless not paying has serious legal consequences. A narcissist will fight you every step of the way on child support. You are lucky if your spouse is a full-time employee, since, in that case, court-ordered child support is simply a mathematical calculation performed by the court applying the state’s child support guidelines.
Your attorney will get a wage assignment order and the child support will come directly from his or her paycheck. It’s infinitely harder when an ex works for themselves since extracting solid numbers about their earnings will be difficult. They are likely to commit every possible kind of financial obfuscation to confound your attempts to figure out how much they earn. They may lie about their income, hide or divert assets, refuse to respond to requests for documents during the discovery process in litigation, and drive up the cost of the divorce in any and every way possible, including fighting massive court battles about simple matters.
Even if you get the financial information you need, you can’t garnish their wages if they are self-employed. That means you may have to struggle, month after month, to get any money. If your spouse has been holding a part-time job or no job, you are likely the primary wage earner in the family. Some narcissists strive for high positions in important companies, while others work very little and expect the spouse – this means you – to pick up the slack. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends to make ends meet while your spouse works only occasionally, your battle will be more difficult. Your attorney will have to build a case proving that he or she is deliberately underemployed – that is, that he or she made the deliberate choice to earn less than they could and should earn.
Even then, forcing a narcissist-ex to get a better job is not easy. A narcissist will not put child support high on their list. For a narcissist, love doesn’t make the world go round; that would be admiration. They crave admiration and will go to almost any extent to get it, including living beyond their means. Many narcissists purchase homes far grander than they need or can afford, swap in last year’s car on a new car every year, and stock up on impressive, name-brand clothes. And they are probably right up there on the list for buying the newest iPhone. Given these out-of-proportion expenditures, it is entirely possible that your spouse won’t have money left to contribute to your kids’ support even if he or she does earn a decent salary. And their compulsion to keep up the appearance of wealth sets their priorities when it comes to paying bills. They will first pay the bills they must to keep the admiration coming. They will make their house payment, car payment, and a minimum credit card payment (so as not to damage his or her credit score.), but they will drag their feet on paying for things they don’t value – like child support.
Ways to Enforce Child Support Orders With a Narcissist Parent
If your ex is a narcissist, you’ll need a very detailed child support order in your divorce decree. A strong divorce attorney with experience with narcissists is your best bet. He or she will ask the judge to spell out every single financial requirement in writing. The more specific the order, the easier it is to enforce. Your divorce decree and support order come with a wage assignment order in some states. In others, your attorney will have to make the request. You’ll also want to talk with your attorney about being prepared to file an action for contempt the first time – and every time – the narcissist fails to meet a financial commitment. Seek attorney fees and costs with every contempt motion, and ask the court for a wage garnishment or an order to levy his or her accounts, if you don’t already have one. Over time, the judge is likely to see things your way. Once you demonstrate to the narcissist that he or she will suffer consequences if they fail to make child support payments, they will likely begin paying.
For more information on the effect narcissist has upon family dynamics, please read our other articles, including Are You Married to a Narcissist, Divorcing a Narcissist, and Child Custody and Narcissistic Personality Disorders, Narcissist Divorce Advice, and Choosing a Divorce Attorney Against a Narcissist.