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Collaborative Family Law

The collaborative family law process is a method of resolving issues between you and your partner without going to court. In fact you and your partner commit to making the decisions yourselves without involving the court in the decision making, and attend meetings to discuss and decide the issues that are most important to you.

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The collaborative family law process is a method of resolving issues between you and your partner without going to court. In fact you and your partner commit to making the decisions yourselves without involving the court in the decision making, and attend meetings to discuss and decide the issues that are most important to you.

Why choose a collaborative family law process?

Collaborative family law has many of the advantages of mediation and also includes constant support from your collaborative lawyer, who is present with you when discussing issues with your partner.

Collaborative law is the preferred choice of many couples who want to ensure that matters are settled away from the court. It gives you real control over the outcome rather than having the court decide for you. Both you and your partner are committed to resolving matters between you and working together in an open and co-operative way.

The courts and the threat of litigation are excluded from the process, and all negotiations take place openly in a series of face to face meetings between clients, their lawyers and sometimes other professionals, such as family therapists, mortgage advisors, accountants and pension experts.

The collaborative family law process is ideally suited to cases involving children as it is faster and more family focused than other more traditional ways of resolving matters.

What is the collaborative process?

You and your partner will each have your own collaboratively trained lawyer with you who will be with you throughout the process, both providing support and legal advice at all times.

You, and any professionals supporting you, sign an agreement committing you to trying to resolve your issues without going to court. This agreement prevents the professionals from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down; everybody involved is focused on the same goal of reaching an overall settlement. Having this agreement in place and what it will mean if the process breaks down, means everyone involved is fully committed to reaching the best solutions for both you and your partner and avoiding having to go through the court process, which can be expensive (both financially and emotionally).

How the collaborative family law process works

We always take the time to discuss the different options available for resolving family issues. Once you have decided the collaborative process is the right option for you, both you and your partner will usually discuss with their own legal advisor separately what to expect from the collaborative meetings. There will be discussions about what you need to do to prepare for the first meeting and you will be guided and supported at every step of the way.

The lawyers will then speak to each other directly to plan for the first meeting from a legal perspective, having in mind what is most important to you. If you have other professionals, such as a financial adviser or family therapist, that you would like to include on your team, then discussions will also take place including them to create the most helpful plan for you.

What happens at a collaborative meeting?

No two families or meetings are the same. This is your process; with support, you and your partner set the agenda and what will be discussed at meetings. You may be joined by other professionals to assist in those discussions but the key is for you both to approach the meetings in an open, honest and respectful way.

How long does the collaborative process take?

Unlike the court which would set a timetable of things that have to be done and by when, there is no such timetable in the collaborative process, so it can suit your family’s circumstances and fit in around you. Each meeting follows an agenda set by you and your partner. The process can be as short as one or two meetings or sometimes as many as four or five; it will depend on what you wish and need to discuss and any information you need to be able to make decisions.

Once you and your partner have reached an agreement, your lawyers will then address the formalities to ensure your agreement legally protects you and your partner.

Advantages of the collaborative family law process

There are a number of advantages to using the collaborative family law process. These include:

  • Negotiations are open as a result of the face to face meetings.
  • Similarly to mediation it is voluntary and puts you in control of the process, preserving relations between you and your partner.
  • You have the support of your collaborative lawyer throughout the process.
  • Other professionals such as accountants, financial advisors or family therapists can be brought into the meetings where appropriate.

Collaborative process case study

The couple in this film are real-life graduates of the collaborative process and agreed to share their experiences. In it they talk about the process itself, some of the difficult issues in their case and what the process has meant for their future as a family.

Collaborative Family Law Resources


Narcissism and Relationship Breakdown Webinar


16th May 2024

Narcissism and Relationship Breakdown Webinar

1) So, good afternoon everyone, and thanks so much for joining us.

2) I’m Rachel Osgood, I’m a partner in Smith’s family department, and I’m joined by my partner Lisa Bray and our speaker today, Jan Hawkins. Before we start, I just need to deal with a couple of bits of housekeeping, which are really important.

3) So if I get anything wrong, I’m gonna rely on my support team, Casey, to jump in and correct me. Firstly, as you know, this is intended to be a safe space for all, and anonymity may be very important to some of you. And so it is very important that you stay anonymous if that’s what you need. So no one attending can see your, you in your picture box. But when you join the webinar, you were invited to fill in your name.

4) For those wishing to remain anonymous, you should have filled in anonymous. But if you filled in your real name and you want to stay anonymous, you will need to change your name in your picture box. You can do that by hovering over the three, over the picture box and three dots will appear. Click on those three dots and then select, change your name. You can then change it to anonymous or you can change it to whatever you feel comfortable with.

5) If you want to ask a question, then you can do so anonymously. Go into the chat box to type your question, but select hosts and panellists and direct your question privately to us. If you direct your question to everyone, then so long as your name has been changed to anonymous, you will remain anonymous. This session is being recorded and it’ll then be uploaded later on to our website for future reference. No participants will be, visible in the recording.

6) If you think this session would benefit someone you know, who wasn’t able to attend the live session, then do feel free please to signpost them to our website. After the webinar, you’ll receive a feedback form. Be great if you could let us know if there are any other subjects that you’d like us to cover in, in future sessions. So that’s the housekeeping. before I introduce Jan, I just wanted to say a bit more about what, what we’re trying to do here.

7) We want these sessions to provide information for our clients and for potential clients. People considering, separation or divorce and any other stakeholders. We want to provide information that’s really of interest to them because instinctively as lawyers, we find ourselves irresistibly drawn to advising about the law. It’s really important for us to remember that that’s not all that our clients want.

8) So these sessions are about listening to our clients. It’s about putting our clients front and centre. It’s about really, really hearing the things that worrying them. And what we keep hearing from our clients is the word narcissism. We find our clients are describing narcissistic traits in their partners, and they tell us that these traits have often been the cause of the breakdown of the relationship. And they’ll almost certainly be a factor in the way that the divorce process and separation unfolds.

9) So, as family lawyers, we need to understand what narcissism looks like. How will someone with a personality, a narcissistic personality disorder, respond to the separation process? And to us, can we tailor our approach to best promote resolution for our clients? Can we spot when our client needs support in these situations?

10) Is it ever possible to reach agreement with a narcissist or will it always mean going to court? Well, Jan Hawkins is a specialist in this field, and she’s going to try and answer some of these questions for us. She has over 30 years experience of working as a psychotherapist. Not only is she a clinician, an educator, she’s also a hugely engaging speaker. And we’re so excited to have her here today. Before I hand over to Jan, just a couple of things.

11) Just to remind you, you are here anonymously. This is a safe space. We’ll deal with questions at the end. Just remember to direct questions to hosts and panellists or change your name to anonymous. Then finally, as I said at the start, we are hoping to provide a series of webinars. And since we’re trying to deal with the things that interest you clients, potential clients, there are any subjects that you would like us to deal with in the context of family law, then do please feel free to let us know.

12) And you can do that either in the feedback form or you can email Lisa or me directly. So what would you find helpful if you’ve been divorced? What was the one thing you wish you had known then? So handing over now to Dan. Well, thank you. thank you so much for inviting me. Lisa and Rachel. so this is a topic that’s, there’s books all over the place about this topic.

13) but, sometimes I think just hearing or speaking about it and having a chance to answer, ask your questions, can be useful. So I’m going to, show some slides and the, as Rachel said, if you want to look through them again afterwards, you are able to, go to their, website and do that. so I’m going to share my screen now.

14) Okay. So narcissism in relationship to relationship breakdown. So that’s what we are looking at, today. So you may not know that narcissists is where narcissism, the name narcissism came from. Narcissus in Greek mythology was a beautiful youth, a son of Cepheus in the Ian River and Oppi and limp as a punishment for ignoring the love of echo, a mounting limp he loved no one he saw at all until he saw his own reflection in water and fell in love with that.

15) Finally, he pined a away and was turned into the flower of like, name Narciss, no narcissist. Oh no, a flower called a narcissist. So the character of narcissist is the original term of narcissism, which is a self-centered personality style.

16) Now, in my profession as a psychotherapist, I do not diagnose diagnoses happens with psychiatrists. We are very different breeds. However, it’s important that I do notice and understand the signs of narcissistic personality disorder. If I’m going to help people who are affected by it, I’m much more likely to see people affected by the disorder than I am to see people who have the disorder.

17) and that’s partly because of the self-centred personality style. IE that person feels that they are fine, everything is great, it’s the people they affect that are most likely to pitch up in the psychotherapist, room. So the quality of this self-centred personality style in extreme contributes to the definition of narcissistic personality disorder, which is, as I said, a not a psychiatric condition marked by grandiosity, excessive need for attention and admiration and an inability to empathise.

18) So we could look really at the four main masks of the narcissist. And if we look at this, I’m very excited to be able to put pictures on my slideshows these days. but sometimes they’re not quite as slightly defined as I’d like.

19) So if we look at the entitled, mask, it’s mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. Everything is about me. So the person with high entitlement matches really well with a person who has low entitlement. The problems emerge when the low entitled person begins to grow and recognises they have needs, asserting needs, one’s own needs with, someone who has a person narcissistic personality disorder can create great turmoil as it threatens their need to be the most entitled.

20) And then if we look at the addictive self-soothing mask, there may be alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, their own way, addicted to having their own way, time to engage in their own interest, but completely ignoring the interest of the partner of you, the partner. Then we look at the show off always in the limelight.

21) They may use, your, their partners or children’s, achievements to show off as well, basking in the limelight rather than really being proud of them. So they’re different from the life and soul of the party type, because this person never knows when to stop. It is all about grandiosity, it’s about me, me, me, and as opposed to mine, mind mine, it’s me, me, me all the time.

22) And then if we look at the bully, mask, this would be the person who would be the aiming for control. There could be abusive bullying behaviours, never taking responsibility for their behaviour, and never apologising unless to apologise would actually get the grandiosity back that they need. So those are the four main masks of the narcissist.

23) So let’s look then at the severity of narcissistic personality. And the, the symptoms can vary. So I just read you these out. They have an unreasonably high sense of self-importance and require constant excessive admiration. As you’re listening to these, you might be wanting to think about your own experience and particularly your own experience early in relationships.

24) And this may not just be with a partner, this could be with, a colleague or with a manager at work. And they feel that they deserve privileges and special treatment. They expect to be recognised as superior even without achievements. They make achievements and talents seem bigger than they are, and they may be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate.

25) And these fantasies, they will have no empathy with the person they are with as they describe their fantasies of what they actually want. They believe that they are superior to others, and they can only spend time with or be understood by equally special people. They may be critical of and look down on people they feel are not important.

26) They expect special favours and expect other people to do what they want without questioning them. They take advantage of others to get what they want. That may be something they have done to you or something you have seen them do to others. They have an inability or an unwillingness that mainly an inability to recognise the needs and feelings of others.

27) They’re so focused on themselves. They may be envious of others and believe others envy them. They may behave in an arrogant way, brag a lot, and come across as conceited. They may insist on having the best of everything. For instance, the best car, the best office, the best food in a restaurant, the best of everything. It’s got to be the best.

28) So if we are looking at the slide here at this skull, I’ve put this image here simply to say it can be dangerous. If you are in relationship with someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder, they may have trouble handling anything that they perceive as criticism.

29) They can become impatient or angry when they don’t get special recognition or treatment. They may have major problems interacting with others and easily feel slighted, and they may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior. They may experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change.

30) They may withdraw from or avoid situations in which they might fail. Remember, they’ve got to be the best, rather avoid than risk the failure. Sometimes they may feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection, and they may have the insight to recognise that, or it may have been pointed out to them and could got through. And they may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation, and fear of being exposed as a failure.

31) They may have that and they may not. So it is important to remember that the, the stereotype of the narcissistic personality disorder does tend to be male, and especially in relationship breakdown. Where coercive control is, is on the table. It tends to be a thought that it’s, it is going to be the male partner.

32) So I think it’s really important to recognise that the narcissistic personality disorder is the disorder. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference, it’s just that actually, men are far more, less likely to report when they have been on the receiving end of coercive control. So unfortunately, the research hasn’t actually caught up yet with the various gender identities we now recognise.

33) So the research has focused on male and female. If we think about the characteristics though, rather than gender, we’ll be clear about how a person is behaving and the impact that behaviour is having on us. So I found these two, little snippets, which I rather liked.

34) Again, we’ve got the, the female loving herself in the mirror. And this is just totally true. If you argue with a narcissist, it’s like being arrested. They’re gonna take down everything you say and it can and will be used against you. You may have had this experience where weeks after something you have said is suddenly thrown at you as though you’ve done some terrible thing to hurt your partner or the person, who’s you are involved with.

35) They take it down, they bore it out. That is a characteristic and of the, disorder. And if we think of again, the female and not a female narcissist can be so blinded by her own hatred, jealousy, and revenge towards her ex and his new wife. She’ll mentally and emotionally destroy her own children in the line of fire if she thinks it’s hurting her ex or his new wife, and then either play the victim or mother of the year.

36) So these are characteristics that we might see. and that, you might be on the receiving end of that Doesn’t mean that the male narcissist wouldn’t do the same thing that would, you know, mentally and emotionally destroy their own children in order to hurt the mother. So If we think about then how did we manage to get ourselves involved with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder?

37) so if we think about schemas and the, and the word schema describes patterns of thinking and behavior that people use to interpret the world just as just, just really to understand the world. and so we, if we think about that, how did we get locked in?

38) And I think the experience, of being in a relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder can feel like a magnet, feel like you’re stuck and it’s really difficult to remove yourself. So being able to understand how did that happen? What is the attraction from the person who has a narcissistic personality disorder to their partner who doesn’t?

39) And what is it about the partner who doesn’t, that attracts them to a partner with narcissistic personality disorder? So by looking at these schemas, we get a bit of an understanding. So if, if you are attracted or you have been stuck in a relationship with someone with, narcissistic personality disorder, you’ve probably learned to keep your feelings to yourself. You are very high on self-sacrifice is hard for you to ask what you need without feeling unworthy or guilty and subjugation.

40) You might find it difficult to assert your personal rights and opinions. You may have experience of abandonment and instability in your early life. So you’re fearful of being rejected or alone. So we’ll put up with the limitations or tormenting behaviours of someone with narcissistic personality disorder. And because of early life experiences, you may also feel inadequate and under undesirable.

41) So buy into criticisms that are thrown at you. You can easily take the blame and feel you need to change yourself. These are things that have happened because of your early experience. And these things make you, vulnerable to somebody who does have a narcissistic personality disorder because it will feed their sense of how marvellous they are that you don’t feel that you are marvellous yet.

42) So you may also experience emotional inhibition. So you’ve learned to keep your feelings to yourself. You’ve learned to be stoic and perhaps overly, overly sort of quiet when it comes to your emotions. You suffer in silence. You may have experienced emotional deprivation early in your life.

43) So you don’t believe that it’s possible to find someone who will meet your emotional needs and who would really love, understand, protect, and care about you. You may also have had the experience of being, of, of learning to mistrust because of early abuse. And because of that early history, hurtful and abusive behaviour is familiar. It’s just what you are used to dealing with. You don’t like it, but you know how to put up with it.

44) You may try and fight back, but usually you’ll give in. And then you may also have had unrelenting standards on yourself because of early, your early experience. So you try harder and harder to be the perfect partner, friend, sibling, employee because you believe that is what is expected of you. You compromise, you please and you lose spontaneity by adhering to the needs and demands of others.

45) So these schemas that we’ve developed throughout early life make us vulnerable to a relationship or to anybody who has a narcissistic personality disorder. Because in order to feed their narcissism, they need people they can feel better than or that they can control, all of those things.

46) So those schemas, they kind of fit together. They make us vulnerable to that fit. According to a nine, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, people with narcissistic personality disorder have traits that make it harder to love another person. So your narcissistic spouse may not be able to support you or show genuine emotion.

47) They may not have that capacity. Any love or affection they show is often given only for their own benefit. So what felt at the early stages, like real, genuine, loving may not have been, they may not have the capacity to truly love to genuinely love. And that’s not because there’s something wrong with you, it’s because of that condition.

48) So looking out for narcissistic traits in our partners that you’ll have had experiences of, they’ve cheated, they break promises, they lose their charm behind closed doors. You are finding you are walking on eggshells all the time. You are constantly being criticism criticised if you don’t do what they want, you get the silent treatment. You feel what I call mushy brain.

49) And mushy brain is that experience of perfectly intelligent people suddenly not being able to manage what’s going on in their head. It just doesn’t make sense. And that is because of a constant onslaught of these criticisms. The silent treatment, the you’ve got it wrong. All of these things will make people who are perfectly intel intelligent lose a sense of what is right and what is wrong.

50) And I just put that little pink picture there. Please cancel my subscription to your issues because I think that’s really where it’s at. In a relationship breakdown. You’ve got your own issues. You do not need to be working on the other person’s issues. That’s their responsibility. So is all narcissism a bad thing? Well, actually narcissism is an important thing.

51) If we look at this middle, section of the slide. healthy narcissism balances the needs of the self and the needs of others. Healthy narcissism also is based in reality. It’s not based in grandiose ideas of, you know, I’m going to, I think I’ve missed the boat frankly, of being a brain surgeon. But you know, if I had a narcissistic personality disorder, I might think I still could be a brain surgeon.

52) So with healthy narcissism, it’s based in reality, it’s too late. I’m not gonna be a brain surgeon. healthy narcissism allows us to be assertive. It allows us to be independent, not stuck with having to have the other person around all the time. Healthy narcissism allows us to compromise. We can give and take. It builds confidence, and there’s generally a sense of wellbeing with a healthy amount of narcissism.

53) So if we look at people with low levels of narcissism, the other end of the continuum, we can see the vulnerability to being involved with someone with a pathological narcissism. So with low le levels of narcissism, person feels inadequate, unworthy and unlovable tend to put their own needs Last will tend to have low self-esteem, feel undeserving can be submissive, overly responsible for self and others gives to others and hopes for recognition does not stand up for themselves and can feel like a servant.

54) Now, of course, in any of these lists, we’re not necessarily going to have all of these, but we will have significant numbers of them. If we are having low levels of narcissism, if we look to the other end of this continuum, then we can see how that fit happens.

55) Again, because someone with a narcissistic personality disorder, the pathological narcissism, we’ll be self-centred. They’ll be lacking in empathy. They’ll tend to have their thoughts based in fantasy. They will have fixed and rigid defences so that anything, the partner says or anybody says to me, it doesn’t fit with what they’ve decided, they’re going to get very angry. They’ll idealise themselves or they’ll idealise somebody else.

56) So they may, in the early stages of a relationship, have idealised you and that can feel fantastic. If you’re someone who has not really got a great deal of confidence yourself, that can be really amazing to be idealised. Unfortunately, one foot wrong and that idealising goes, they tend to be grandiose as we’ve, said and entitled, they will coerce others through anger into resonating with their needs they will take from others and they will refuse to take personal responsibility.

57) So looking at this slide, one of the things I would just encourage really is, that move towards healthy narcissism. Any of us who’ve experienced trauma early in our lives or difficult times early in our lives may not have a healthy amount of narcissism.

58) and that’s something we need to develop. So if you are dealing with a narcissist, try the following tips. Now I’ve put in purple, which I notice is in keeping with the colour theme today. And I didn’t know that. the beast is the behaviour, not the person. This is really important to remember because it’s crucial that we do not feed the beast.

59) IE don’t feed the behaviour. So with somebody with a narcissistic personality disorder, try to avoid direct confrontation. Don’t feed the beast. Reiterate your need for action over promises. so being very clear about what action you are wanting and not putting up with, I promise to do that because you know that the promise is untrustworthy. So don’t feed the beast.

60) Maintain any boundaries you have set. And this is going to be difficult. If you are at the point of divorcing of ending a relationship, it is likely that your boundaries have been transgressed. If the you’ve been with someone who’s got a narcissistic personality disorder, you are going to have been harmed. So you are going to need to develop and maintain new boundaries and hold onto them.

61) You also need to remind yourself if the relationship is breaking down, that you are not to blame. There’s always going to be things. You know, that old saying, six of one and a half, a dozen of the other. Okay, there are going to be things that, that we all could have done if we’re in a relationship that breaks down. But if you are in a relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder, it isn’t six of one and a half a dozen of the other, you will have been harmed.

62) You need to remind yourself you are not to blame because the person with the narcissistic personality disorder is going to be telling you, you are all the time. Don’t feed the beast. Don’t accept their behaviour. This may be something you have had to learn to do to survive in a relationship. Not anymore. If you are separating, it’s the end of accepting their behaviour.

63) Don’t feed the beast. I think the message might be getting through now and acknowledge when you need professional help. and that may be in the form of your lawyers, your solicitors. because doing this by yourself trying to come to an agreement with someone with narcissistic personality disorder is extremely difficult. So you may need professional help. It is important that you getting and also know when to leave a conversation or a room or indeed a relationship.

64) Don’t feed the beast. So that may mean something’s getting a bit controversial, things are getting heated. You are recognising that you are about to be in some horrible confrontation, and suddenly you say, oh, I’ve just realised I’ve just got to go to the bathroom, or I’ve just got to, make the call, is urgent.

65) I’ll come back later so that you get out before things really get heated. So what does a narcissist do at the end of a relationship? They blame it on you. They’re going to try to incite guilt and shame. And if those schemas we looked at earlier are part of what happens for you, it’s gonna be easy for them to incite guilt or blame.

66) So it’s, it’s important to begin to recognise that, see it coming and have it imaginary. I like to think of an imaginary, transparent riot shield. So for things like that, anything, any stuff that’s being thrown at you slides off the transparent riot shield. It does not get in. That is something to develop.

67) They will spin the narrative, to blame. You blame the partner for the failure of the relationship. And this maintains their grandiose perception of themselves and gives them leverage to try and convince others to have empathy with them. So I just want to take a little pause there and to read you a little story. When I was at school, there was a series of reading books that you worked through, called Janet and John.

68) So I’m going to just read you a little case study that will illustrate what, what we are talking about here. So Janet and John seem to be a perfect match. They’re complimentary characteristics. Janet organised. She was over responsible and loving John, charming, disorganised, and lacking in responsibility. Though his more disturbing characteristics developed later during the relationship, trouble really started Janet and John’s relationship when they had a child and Janet needed support.

69) She also went into therapy thinking she was a dreadful partner because any requests she made of John were met with anger. After many years of marriage, Janet’s attempts to reach John were not working. She had been patient with his affairs, had attempted to compensate for his irresponsible and erratic behaviours, so the children didn’t suffer.

70) She hoped and had begun to strongly urge him to engage in couple’s therapy. He would not. When she raised concerns about his behaviours, his answer was, if you don’t like it, get a divorce. This led to request to discuss things which led to Janet receiving the silent treatment or his repeated phrase, don’t talk to me, get a solicitor’s letter.

71) When she did just that, John reduced the story to Janet, made me get rid of my chickens and threw me out. This to anyone who would listen. It’s not a pretty story. So the narcissist at the end of a relationship will not be taking responsibility or sharing responsibility.

72) They may engage in discarding and devaluation. They may actually abruptly end the relationship with without warning or explanation and devalue the partner and make you feel un unworthy. They will always shift the blame. They often deflect responsibility onto the partner for the breakup. Even if they have themselves abruptly ended, the relationship, it will always not be the partner’s fault.

73) So how do we recover if there have been a narcissistic relationship and avoid a repeat. What I’ve noticed is that when people have been in an abusive relationship with a narcissistic partner, it can take an awfully long time, time to reclaim a sense of self.

74) If that’s been your experience, begin now. Notice when you are thinking of yourself through the eyes of that partner or that person, and refocus on who you actually are. It’s a difficult thing because if you’ve been in a relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder, it it will have harmed you.

75) It will have got in, take time to heal, possibly therapy will be useful or other connections where you can see in the reflection of the other yourself, not the projections of the narcissistic view of you. It has harmed you. Take time to recover. Consider making a red flag list. Anything that reminds you of the narcissistic way of operating is to be avoided in any future relationships. You are worth more.

76) Anyone with a narcissistic personality disorder is not a hundred percent bad, but their ability to have feelings for others in terms of empathy is pretty non-existent than can have many other feelings, but it may be difficult or impossible for them to share in someone else’s feelings in the way that others do. They may be pleased or proud when their pressured child does well at school, but incapable of understanding how their child might be feeling.

77) It’s all about the glorification of themselves being For a narcissist can bring on narcissistic rage, which typically leads to behaviours like tantrums, manipulations, smearing, grandstanding, lying playing, victim nasty retaliations and refusing to cooperate are the most common. So it’s important not to, ignore them.

78) Not always easy, but finding ways of not ignoring, is gonna be important. So for example, instead of ignoring, and lots of people will say, just ignore them, it will actually increase their efforts to get at you. So actually going for minimal responses. If, if they, if you pick up a phone or if you are talking and they’re coming out with something that you don’t agree with, simply say something like this, I’ll think about that and get back to you.

79) Bye. Or for example, we need to leave this to our solicitors. Bye. Recognise when you are being drawn into more dialogue and stop. It must go someone at the door. Anything minimal.

80) So it’s not ignoring, but it is simply not feeding the beast. So be aware that others involved in helping you to extricate yourself from a relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. They may not see through the charm offensive and they may be taken in. That’s really difficult to be around. So just ensure that you have support systems who really do recognise the impact on you and the indications from your ex-partner so you can feel safely supported.

81) And this can happen even with your, solicitor or sometimes people are involved with cafcass and someone with a narcissistic personality disorder can be absolutely brilliant at charming the, that professional. So you will need to ensure that you have support systems who will really be there for you, so that you are not taken in by that.

82) And that you have a solicitor who actually recognises what narcissistic personality disorder looks like. This, offering from Paris Smith is, is just so important, in helping because whilst you are here on this webinar, so are they and they are wanting to learn so they know what they are seeing too. And remember, in all dealings with someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder, less is more and don’t feed the beast respectful civil, but minimal interactions will reduce the struggle and help you begin healing.

83) There may be attempts at love bombing by your partner and that take you back around the cycle again. And if you can recognise what your cycle is and what has always been, because there will be a pattern, you will might see the escape route quicker, less is more.

84) Don’t feed the beast. And to remind you, oh, I’ve, you can look back at slide 11. So at this point I’m going to stop the share and I believe there may be some questions that we can look at. Thank you Jan. Jan, as you were, going through your slides, in particular the one regarding what a narcissist does, at the end of the relationship, I think is particularly resonated with, one of our, participants today who’s shared some feedback on, on the chat function.

85) So, so thank you for that. in terms of a couple of questions, Jan, so one question, from a participant is who, who wants to leave their partner, perhaps doesn’t feel ready themselves emotionally to take that step at the moment. is with obviously someone who they consider to be a narcissist, do you have any advice as to what steps they should be taking for themselves to help prepare themselves to, to start that process of separation?

86) Yes, and I, I do and I recognise how hard it is. because, because as I said, not, someone with a narcissistic personality disorder is not all bad. It would be easier if they were, it’s so much more confusing when one minute you are being love bombed and the next minute you are being criticised, you don’t know where you are.

87) so I think one of the things that can be useful is to keep a journal and try to recognise what is going on because that cycle I was talking about, we’ll all have one when we’re in that kind of relationship in any kind of relationship, we’ll all have a cycle of, you know, of what’s happening. so keeping a journal beginning to notice what exactly is going on and when exactly if there is love bombing, because that’s what’s pulling you back in.

88) So you get to a point where you’re thinking, no, I’ve really got to go, oh, the partner’s been nice to me, actually no, it’s really okay. And that’s where that mushy brain feeling comes. So keeping a journal, possibly seeing a therapist to work through some of those issues, keeping your feet on the ground and reflecting on that. Slide 11, don’t feed the beast.

89) Yeah, And I think that probably feeds into, Jan as well. Another question that we’ve had, in terms of, wanting to leave but worrying about how your partner will react and steps to take, you know, especially if there are children of the family, as well. So, so I think that that slide is, you know, is very helpful for, for people to be able to, to reflect on. I think another question that’s actually just come through on the chat, is whether or not Jan, you have any tips, if, we as professionals begin to see, narcissistic traits in our clients and do you have any tips for us on how we might manage that?

90) I think being aware is absolutely everything. Of course, somebody, you know, can be very charming and not have a narcissistic personality disorder. They just happen to be a very charming person. But if you start to see, if you are seeing a couple and you start to see a, a kind of energy shift where one starts to become more charming and the other one begins to diminish a bit, be aware of that because that may be a clue that there is something going on there that it’s difficult for the partner who wants to leave, to say, because there’s the dynamics playing out in front of you.

91) I, I think that’s something that’s really important. and but again, you don’t wanna feed the beast either.

92) And by the beast, I am referring not to the person, but to the behaviour. So someone who is really good at the charm offensive, does not get very far with me. I will be very polite and I will be very, listened to what they say, but I am not going to show any kind of signs that I’m being won over by the charm offensive.

93) You know, it, does that make sense? It’s, it’s very easy when someone’s flooding you with charm to almost go into charm mode yourself because it’s almost hypnotic. So spot it remain uber professional, and then the person who’s on the receiving it now, the partner, if you’ve got them both in the same room, is going to feel a bit supported. Now, generally speaking, you’re probably seeing one on their own or the other.

94) If you hear the kind of grandiosity or the kind of, well, it’s all the fault that if you start, you know, check through that checklist, then be aware that you may be in a position where you are having to support you are, you are being called to support a partner who’s being abusive to somebody else’s client. And how you manage that is going to be something you’ll need to talk to each other about whether you’re gonna take a client like that.

95) And that’s also why these, these sessions Jan is so important for us as professionals as well. So obviously, you know, we are not trained to, to diagnose, personality disorders, but it’s, it’s been alive to the traits, looking at what the client tells us. And obviously we shouldn’t just accept when our client comes in and says their partner is, is a narcissist, you know, absolutely qualified either. but it’s being, you know, alive to, you know, to the traits, isn’t it?

96) And how to use that. It’s, It is. But just on that, I was just describing if you had a client who has an autistic personality disorder, what you’d see, but what you’ll see in somebody who’s been on the receiving end is more often somebody who’s gonna be worrying that you are not gonna believe them. They’re probably not going to be saying, my partner’s got a narcissistic personality disorder might do these days, and especially if they’ve been to this webinar, they might say, oh, I now understand, but by the time somebody is actually ready to leave, what you’re gonna see is exhaustion, flip-flopping, you know, really have got to leave.

97) But on the other hand, it’s like they’re seeing themselves through the eyes of the partner and they’re also worried that leaving is going to cause harm to the children. And the partner may be reinforcing that. And actually evidence shows that, children of divorce don’t suffer.

98) actually they don’t suffer as badly, as long as the parents are both behaving in a loving way towards the children. And if that is not possible, if the parents who have the parent who has residence has the support to heal from what has been going on and to help the children heal, they do better than children who remain in a, a, a relationship because the parents are saying, well, we’ve got to keep together because of the children.

99) Actually those children are in my therapy room as adults suffering with, you know, if only they’d have divorced years and years ago, we’d have been, we’d have been better. Rachel, I dunno if you’ve got any other questions that have, have come through the things that have, sort of a couple of questions that kind of link together actually, which touch a little on what you’ve just been saying. one’s from a client interestingly and one from another divorce lawyer.

100) and the first question is that, this person says that they’ve been through a divorce and their wife was a raging narcissist. they say that, the wife and her solicitor put me through help. Yeah. What could my solicitor have done to try to limit the damage? So that’s from the client perspective. And then, this from, from a lawyer who says, as lawyers, we’re not psychotherapists, which we just touched on, and we’re not trained to diagnose personality disorders.

101) Should we be relying on our client’s diagnosis? Should we conduct the case any differently on the basis of what our clients tell us? Or should we deal with it in just the same way as usual? Interesting questions. I and I, my heart goes out to the, the person who, who has had that raging ex-wife. as I said during the presentation, it’s very easy to assume that it’s only, women who suffer from coercive control and from people who’ve got narcissistic personality disorder and other, other issues.

102) and the, I think the thing is, signposting to therapy is probably one of the most important things, and therapy is not the answer to everything. but signposting to a therapist who actually really does understand, some, some therapeutic schools, some traditions have got quite fixed ideas about, certain things like this, so they might pathologise.

103) So you’ve got this extreme from pathologising, oh yes, that person’s definitely got a personality disorder, which reinforce it, that actually they might not. to the other extreme, which is I don’t have any labels and I don’t have any kind of interest in labelling people. Now those, neither of those extremes is gonna be helpful. A therapist who is able to work with a client who is experiencing an awful lot of turmoil and an awful lot of harm from that relationship can be really, really useful.

104) And not to frighten anybody, but my experience of, people extracting themselves from, a relationship that has had this, this kind of setup narcissistic personality disorder, I’ve seen clients take up to two years to be who they are because they have been so almost brainwashed by what they’ve been told.

105) They are by the constant criticisms, by the, you know, the silent treatment, by the constant actually lies that will be in the divorce case, for example. You know, how do you prove a negative if if somebody’s saying in the, in the, divorce, well, you know, unreasonable behaviour because they were out drinking every night and actually they don’t drink at all.

106) How do you prove that? You know? So extracting yourself involves coming into who am I really not, who does that person think I am? So it is a kind of brainwashing that therapy can really help the person come to who am I and how do I move on? Does that answer that for, for, have I answered the questions both of the questions? I think so Jan, as well as we can in a, in a general session, rather than face-to-face and, and it is resonating, somebody just commenting that, you know, they’re still dealing with it, two and a half years later.

107) Yeah. another couple of questions actually on a similar theme that have come through. so you talked about the entitled narcissist and the question is if they feel so entitled, how can they ever compromise? And the other question with an that wants it all and believes they’re entitled to it and their solicitor states that claim and requests themselves, it goes to something I said in my intro, doesn’t it?

108) If you’ve got a narcissist on the other side, are you ever able to con compromise or are you just gonna end up in court? I think that the chances are, if, if you have been in an abusive relationship with someone who’s got a narcissist, so remember I was looking at a continuum of narcissism and that there is a healthy, amount narcissism.

109) But if you are on the receiving end of a pathological extent of narcissism, the chances are there’s been coercive control, there’s been wounding, there’s been a lot of damage. so you know, that person is not going to be able to compromise because they are entitled, and that entitlement is very rigid if the person has an extreme version now of, of this, these traits. So if you have extremely high entitlement, you fit well with somebody who’s got no entitlement at all, that fits really well, but the person who’s got no entitlement at all might have engaged in therapy and self-growth and suddenly thinking, hang on a minute.

110) You know, really, and that’s when the trouble starts. So compromise is almost impossible. That’s not to say it is impossible, but it’s almost impossible. And sometimes it’s going to be a question of going to court because mediation is not going to be a place where things are going to work out.

111) The person with that disorder, in the extreme is going to try everything to charm the mediator. Hopefully the mediator, is going to have, you know, looked into this and recognised what they’re seeing. And the person who’s been on the receiving end of coercive control is often very, crushed. And so it’s quite difficult for them to, you know, say, well, I, you know, I need, or they just get trapped because that dynamic will play out so often mediation is not appropriate at all.

112) so yeah, compromise is very, very difficult. I’m realising the time. and wishing, if I could just say this, wishing I’m seeing things popping up in the chat and just wishing that I was able to connect with e each of you who are putting something in the chat, because each of you have taken this time and I’m sure my whistle stop tour through this difficult subject, has been not a pleasant experience.

113) So I’m just gonna invite you all to take care of yourself, to do something for you when you finished looking at this, this webinar. and thank you for my, putting up with my stumbles. So sorry, Rachel, you No at all, Jen. I’m just gonna, I, I think we’ve run out of time for questions, which is really hugely, annoying because it’s such an important discussion to have and it’s one that resonates, so much with so many people.

114) But I will just say that the final comment that has come into the box, very timelessly, from somebody who was married to a narcissist and says it took two and a half years of his life, but hang on, lost it now, but with support from Paris Smith and their partner, they ended up going all the way to court.

115) and he experienced some degree of healing, let’s say, to hear the judge seeing yes, what had gone on. Yes. And some, some form of redress there. Yes. So thank you for that comment. I’m glad that we were able to support you. And Lisa, is there anything else that you want to pick up? No, I don’t think so. Other than to say, Jan as you identify, I think actually it’s something that we could be talking about all afternoon, isn’t it?

116) So, so I’m very grateful to our participants who have joined us today. obviously we hope you found the session informative. I think from the feedback, you know, you, you hopefully have, as Rachel said in her opening, this session has been recorded and we will be uploading it to our website. so if you want to rewatch it because there was so much to take on board, you know, please feel free to do so. but also signpost anybody that you know that maybe wanted to attend who, who was unable to attend today, signpost them to our website so that, so they can view it.

117) as Rachel said, you’ll also be receiving a feedback form from our marketing team and we really do value your feedback. and if you have any other topics that you would like us to cover in future webinars, please do let us know in that feedback form. if you have any questions that haven’t been dealt with today, or you’d like any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact Rachel or me or any member of family team here at Para Smith. all of our details can be found on our website.

118) And finally, Jan, I’d just like to thank you for your time today, and providing an extremely insightful webinar. you know, as you can see from the feedback, you know, it’s been very well received. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you everybody.

Family Law FAQs


7th November 2023

Family Law FAQs

0:01.2 Hi everybody. My name is Heather Souter and I am a senior associate here at the family team at Paris Smith. Hello everyone. My name’s Zoe Culverwell and I’m an associate in the family team here at Paris Smith. We are delighted to have you back for our second series in our family law videos.

0:18.5 In our first series of videos, we covered the different ways of reaching a resolution. We’re now moving on to frequently asked questions.

0:26.6 And that’s because as family lawyers, no two days are ever the same, and we’re quite often asked very similar questions.

0:33.5 These concepts are obviously very familiar to us as family lawyers, but they will often be new to you at a stressful time. We thought you would therefore be helpful to go through things that come up regularly and try to demystify some key concepts and legal jargon.

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