Fighting Back – How To Handle the Narcissist in Court

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There is a good chance that you have either encountered your particular narcissist in a court setting or you will do. This is because of two factors which are especially prevalent with our kind:-

1.      Our behaviour results in the necessity of bringing court action;

2.      Our need to win prolongs such court action necessitating a court hearing.

Most people either avoid behaving in a way which causes a legal action to occur in the first place or if legal action occurs, they look to mediate and bring about a settlement without the necessity of a final court hearing. The three main arenas in which you will find a narcissist involved in a court hearing are as follows:-

1.      Proceedings involving children – whether it is proving parentage, addressing issues of residence or contact and similar;

2.      Criminal proceedings where the narcissist has committed a crime against you;

3.      Proceedings involving property or money – usually divorce proceedings, but will also include proceedings for child support, the return of money or property owed, or you may even be on the receiving end of a claim brought by the narcissist.

I am not referring in this article to the actual legal action itself, I have addressed that in the articles Courting Troubleand The Dirty Divorcewhich both give you insight as to how we approach the legal process. This article is about what you can expect and what you should consider doing at a court hearing where we will be present.

The first aspect of this is to understand our mind set. What do we want to achieve from this court hearing and how do we regard this hearing?

1.      As you would expect, we want fuel. We want fuel chiefly from you – whether you are angry, frustrated or upset – but we also want to gain fuel from the lawyers, the judge, the jury, the reporters, the police, the probation service, the experts and anybody else who happens to be in the court room.

2.      The hearing is a stage for us. We are the main attraction and as a consequence we regard this as an opportunity for us to make it all about us. This means that we will draw attention to ourselves, we will pass comment repeatedly about what is being said (even though it is not necessary or appropriate for us to speak), we will engage in exaggerated gestures to draw attention to ourselves – headshaking, nodding, waving our arms around, pointing and so on – even when we are not in the dock or giving evidence.

3.      Exhibiting our usual contradictory behaviour, we revel in the fact that we have been given this stage for the gathering of fuel but we also resent the fact that we are having to appear in court. If we are taking action against you, we resent having to give up our time to do so. If we are defending a claim brought by you or involving you, then it is all your fault that we are facing this imposition on our freedom of activity and you are impinging on our sense of entitlement to do as we please.

4.      We are here to win. We do not ordinarily engage in compromise (unless doing so provides us with a further advantage) and therefore we want to win by getting what we regard as ours, keeping what we regard as ours, defeating you and escaping charges. Whatever the nature of this hearing, our intention is to win because this accords with our sense of superiority.

5.      We do not recognise the authority of anybody inside the court room because we out rank them all. The judge is an idiot, the expert does not know what she is talking about, your lawyer is a fool, our lawyer is only good because we are his or her client, the jury consists of morons, the child psychologist is biased and so on and so forth. We are doing everybody a huge favour by turning up at court.

6.      We will not accept anything which goes against us. This is as a consequence of our sense of entitlement and also our inherent need to escape accountability. Any witness which gives evidence against us is a liar, any ruling against us is biased, the expert which provides evidence against us is bent, the police officer who testifies against us is corrupt and we can stand when we want, sit when we want, speak when we want and we will argue with anybody and everybody who tries to shackle us in some way.

7.      This hearing is a marvellous opportunity to provoke you, intimidate you and punish you and we will be looking to use this court hearing to achieve these things. Be in no doubt that the instigation of court proceedings against you is a hoover. Any court hearing (whether you started the legal process or not) is seen as an opportunity to hoover you because you are there. You have entered our sphere of influence, so there is a Hoover Trigger, we know there is fuel on offer (because of the heightened emotional nature of a court hearing) and we have a direct means of engaging with you, thus the bar is lowered on the Hoover Execution Criteria, accordingly we will want to engage with you and we will keep trying throughout the hearing. We will stare at you, try to speak to you, goad you, make comments when you are giving evidence, gesture at you and engage in any action which allows us to interface with you in order to draw fuel.

It is worth explaining how the three schools of narcissism will generally behave so you can factor this into your considerations.

The Lesser Narcissist will not be able to keep his fury under control. He will engage in frequent outbursts, threats and protestations. This means his lawyer (if he has one) will be tasked with trying to calm him down, there are likely to be frequent adjournments (continuances) to allow the over heated Lesser to cool down for ten minutes or so and the smooth running of the hearing will become fractured. Do not be surprised if a brawl breaks out and the Lesser is held in contempt of court and removed from the court room.

The Mid-Range Narcissist will see this as an opportunity to provide an Oscar worthy performance as if she is starring in a Shakespearean tragedy. Frequent pity plays, turning on the water works, fluttering eyelashes, dramatic pauses, feigned fainting fits, requests for adjournments so she can compose herself, asking for a glass of water and so on. All attention seeking, all designed to delay and garner sympathy from all of those in the court room and most of all designed to test your patience because you have seen it all before and can see through it.

The Greater Narcissist poses the most significant problem for you albeit you are far less likely to have been ensnared by one since the Lesser and Mid-Range are far more common. The Greater, having a far more scheming mind, greater level of control and a Macchiavellian mind will apply considerable manipulation in order to secure the win for himself and therefore his approach will be more subtle, more effective and harder to displace.

Knowing our mind set and how we approach the court hearing, what should you do?

1.      Ensure your lawyer, if you are using one, fully understands narcissistic personality disorder and has dealt with our kind previously. This is fundamental. If you do not, not only do you run the risk of not being believed by your own lawyer (and probably regarded as a fantasist, histrionic and so on) he or she stands to be manipulated by us so that they pressure you into accepting a situation which is less beneficial for you – expect comments such as “He seems like a decent enough chap and wants to put this behind him, so you might want to consider this new proposal” or “It is clearly upsetting her having to deal with this, so I should imagine we can get a settlement sooner than later.”

2.      Ensure anybody who is invited to conduct an assessment of the narcissist for the purpose of the court proceedings – for example a court appointed psychologist or a probation officer – understands what NPD is and has dealt with it before. Similar reasons to those advanced at one above are applicable to this as well.

3.      Arrive at court early. Do this to ensure you are not arriving flustered but also so you can secure a consultation room prior to court. In criminal proceedings you may have victim support available to assist you in this regard, but in matrimonial, financial and child applications there is no guarantee of this. Securing a consultation room is very important. This is so you can have discussions with your lawyer etc privately, but also because it creates a barrier between you and us. If you have to sit or stand in a public area, we will be hovering trying to catch your eye, we will walk over and speak to you, we will stand nearby and speak in a loud voice, cracking jokes etc to unnerve you. Get a consultation room and sit with your back to the door so that you cannot see us keep walking past through the window because we will do this.

4.      Ensure you are prepared. Arriving early allows you to compose yourself, gather yourself, get your bearings and ensure you are focused. This is especially important if you are representing yourself. We are more likely to try and wing things because of our expected right to win owing to our sense of entitlement.

5.      Do not expect our lawyer to see through us. They will have little idea what we are, they will be manipulated by us and ultimately they are our hired gun. Accordingly, whilst it may seem that our lawyer is just as bad as us, keep in mind why this appears to be the case and this will provide you with reassurance.

6.      During the hearing ensure as far as possible that there is somebody between you and us who will block a direct eyeline. When we give evidence from the witness stand or appear in the dock we will be eyeballing you in order to draw fuel. Do not look at us. You ignoring us will criticise us, wound us and may cause an ignition of fury. An ignition of fury is likely to assist you because in such a situation we are far more likely to lash out at other people, thus showing the true colours and inviting the disapproval of those in attendance.

7.      Give us enough rope and all (save the most controlled Greater) will hang themselves. Your aim is to bring about an ignition of fury. This should not be done by goading us (as this is fuel) but by ignoring us. This will wound us and our need for fuel will mean that we will lash out at others. This might be arguing, shouting, insulting, being sulky, storming from the court room and so forth. Whilst you will be explaining to the court about our unreasonable behaviour the best thing to rely on is us exhibiting this ourselves and the best way is to cause the ignition of our fury. This will not take much with the Lesser at all and thus the court will be able to see our true colours in all their glory which will damage our position and improve ours.

8.      By comparison we will be doing all we can to make you react and accord with the picture that we will have painted you as, namely a liar, violent, unhinged, crazy, promiscuous, hot-tempered and so on. Not only will your reaction give us fuel and tell us we can keep provoking you to get more, we are also damaging your prospects of success. We have always known how to draw a reaction from you and we will be counting on this in this final court hearing, so prepare yourself and increase your resolve to give no reaction. No reaction means no fuel. No fuel weakens us. No fuel means we have to draw it elsewhere. No fuel increases the chance of your comments and actions wounding us resulting in an ignition of fury.

9.      When giving your evidence, do not look at us or our lawyer but rather direct all your replies to the judge. Not only will this make you feel calmer but it will criticise us because you are ignoring us. It also lessens the control we have over you (either direct or through our lawyer).

10. When giving evidence do not challenge us or our lawyer with your own questions. That is not the time to do it. It will fuel us and also indicates to us that we are getting to you, which will encourage further provocation.

11. When giving your evidence or making submissions, do so in a fuel free manner. Remember we are just waiting to lap that fuel up and therefore you need to get your emotions under control and deny that to us.

12. Ensure your lawyer understands that all discussions are lawyer to lawyer and take place outside of the consultation room. Your lawyer can then return to you and convey the upshot of those discussions.

13. Ensure you take a trusted friend with you who stays with you throughout and acts as barrier should we try to speak to you, enter the consultation room, follow you to the toilets, cafeteria and so on.

14. Always refuse any attempt we make to get you on your own by having a “heart to heart to sort this out”. This is just a ruse to isolate you and drawn fuel from you. If you are not represented, use your trusted friend to convey messages so you keep a barrier between you and us. Your whole approach should be as if we do not actually exist. That way you will provide no fuel, feel less anxious and you will cause criticism.

15. Be aware that we will use third parties to approach you and also turn up with Lieutenants and coterie members in tow. They should also be ignored and not engaged with in the ways described above.

16. Refresh your mind beforehand of all the forms of manipulation that we engage in so you know to spot them when they are rolled out at court.

17. Do not give in unnecessarily just to make the matter go away. We are counting on that. The longer you stick to your guns (without being patently unreasonable as to what you wish to achieve) the more likely you are to cause us to erupt which will either cause us to walk off and thus matters are more likely to go against us, we lose interest in the process and agree to a deal (be mindful you will have to enforce it as we will not stick to it even if agreed) just to be able to go and do something else or the eruption in itself will go against us in some way.

18. Be aware we will try to get messages to you to draw a reaction from you. This means passing notes, texting you/ringing you (you may consider it prudent to switch off your ‘phone and organise for urgent messages to be sent to your lawyer/trusted friend instead) , through social media,  through third parties and even using the court tannoy under some pretext.

19. You will experience frustration with how we are behaving. Whether it is milking the situation through pity plays, engaging in a character assassination when giving evidence and/or asking questions, smearing you and raking up sensitive matters, this is all being done to provoke a reaction from you and gain fuel. Understand this will happen and know it will feel unpleasant but focus on keeping yourself fuel-free which will aid your outcome.

20. The reason most court hearings have to go to a final hearing is as a consequence of the unreasonableness of one of the other parties, otherwise it will settle beforehand through agreement being reached. We of course revel in unreasonableness owing to our sense of expectation, refusal to accept blame and desire to draw fuel. There will be occasions where we can pull the wool over people’s eyes and get the result we want, but this is usually because the non-narcissist has fallen into one of the traps detailed above and failed to maximise their chances. If you adhere to these points the unreasonable position of the narcissist will eventually come to the fore and be rejected by a judge.

21. When leaving the court wait for some time to ensure that we have left the vicinity (this also applies to lunchtime adjournments) as if we remain at liberty we will be looking to pounce on you to draw fuel. This might be gloating if we have been successful or to berate you if the hearing has gone against us. Be mindful of being ambushed by us in this manner.

22. Don’t use social media to comment on the forthcoming court hearing, comment during it or afterwards. This is likely to fuel us in some way and may invite response from us or our coterie.

Knowing who you are dealing with, how we will seek to manipulate you, how we want to use the platform to gain fuel from you and applying the above recommendations will serve you considerably well when you have a final court hearing involving our kind.

Except when Judge Tudor is presiding.

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13 Comments

  1. Thank-you for taking time to address this.
    To get more specific; when one is self-representing, naturally, the focus should be about facts, evidence and law if you take your role as ‘amateur lawyer’ seriously – which personally I did. But my most recent experience with this was a judge not allowing to me to address my additional “facts and evidence” but instead I was put on the spot by a question that required an emotional response; so I likely looked evasive myself because I was so prepared to be unemotional that I found myself backpedaling to meet some kind of expectation that I imagined the judge wanted to see. Also, in maintaining my emotional distance I referred to my ex as ‘the respondent’ but the the judge saw that as disrespectful and reminded me that he ‘had a name’. In the end the judge still ordered in my favour but afterwards I got the feeling that the judge expected me to a bit more “human”..
    just to clarify though and absolutely confirm; following your directions as laid out in your article above most certainly caused my ex to act in a way that will sink his own ship. He angered the judge and is now walking on thin ice.

  2. HG,

    This IS excellent info and managing one’s own emotional reaction to the narcissist in the court setting most certainly results in the narc attempting to get fuel in other ways – and helps toward flushing out his/behaviours.

    If you don’t mind providing your opinion; in a situation where both parties are self-representing (so there is no 3rd party barrier in the form of lawyers) and in that same situation the judge involved may be expecting to see some compassion on the part of the applicant or the respondent; what would you recommend if the judge deem your lack of response as dispassion or even disrespect?

    1. Do you mean if you show no emotional response during a hearing? There is no issue with showing an emotional response to something the judge might ask, or the court expert for example, so long as you do not react to the narcissist. I don’t think a judge would expect you to show compassion – it is a court room and whilst emotions do run high and judges recognise that, they are interested in facts, evidence and law – not emotions.

  3. This is incredibly helpful! It’s very possible that I will end up in court with my ex, and maybe even mediation (shiver). I’ve been playing these scenarios out in my head, trying to figure out what to do in all situations. This article is gold!! Don’t look at him… got it. Maybe give a few yawns and pick at my nails and maybe give my lawyer some subtle looks of admiration. Nice.

    A couple years ago, he sued our former boss for some wages (he actually did have a case), and one thing that sticks out in my mind is how he commented that our boss wouldn’t look at him and his wife wouldn’t look at him. He mentioned it as an implication that it was a sign that they knew they were in the wrong, and I’ve been worried he’ll think the same thing about me if I don’t look at him. Oh for God’s sakes!! Of course he’s going to think I’m in the wrong whether I look at him or not! There I go with my emotional thinking again. Why not make the choice that will piss him off and possibly cause him to make an ass of himself?!?! Thanks HG!!! Duh!!

    1. Hello purpleinnature,

      For your own peace of mind and knowledge, if you end up in mediation, you may want to inquire if it is a ‘open’ or ‘closed’ mediation (closed means you cannot bring it up later in court). Also, you can request shuttle format in some cases, where the mediator has both of you in separate rooms, so you are not in each other’s physical presence, and the mediator shuttles back and forth during discussion.

      1. Thank you very much! I will keep that in mind. I am sure that if we end up in mediation, he will disrespect the protocol of communicating through my lawyer and will belittle me directly, demand I look at him and accuse me of being a liar and breaking my promises. I would really like to avoid that, as it will be extremely difficult to remain stone-faced in that situation. Plus it will just suck big time. Lol. I should probably not think about it until it becomes inevitable.

      2. Purpleinnature

        “he will disrespect the protocol of communicating through my lawyer and will belittle me directly, demand I look at him and accuse me of being a liar and breaking my promises. I would really like to avoid that, as it will be extremely difficult to remain stone-faced in that situation.”

        Mine was pleasant as can be in mediation; even feigned concern that I made time in my schedule during a time-limited work contract to attend the mediation. He pulled the “I never hit you; did I?” in front of the mediator and then snuck in snippets of phrases and comments that only I would understand the origin of…like things that went back to ‘inside jokes’ on our first date – that later would take on a negative cast during devaluation.
        That was the first mediation, the next was shuttle format in separate rooms.
        He even lightly flirted with the mediator – amazing.

        One other thing; get to know your mediator if you can. I chose ours because I had witnessed her manner in other circumstances and I knew that she knew her stuff. Mediation never worked for us but I think it was partly because she was aware that mediation does not always work for everyone – and narcissists will definitely exploit the situation.

      3. Whocares – maybe you’re right. I assume he will act that way because that’s exactly what he did when he sued our former boss. But maybe he will treat me differently depending on his Hoover hopes. He is full of surprises, after all. Ugh. I haven’t been able to serve him the divorce petition anyway after two weeks of trying. With any luck, the decree will just be entered by default and I won’t have to deal with court at all. Somehow I think it’s not going to be that easy… but like I said, he’s full of surprises.

  4. Find a male lawyer that doesn’t like it men who take advantage of women . A very tough male lawyer that knows how men will act and will not let the narc get away with bullshit. Women need to ask wealthy women who have done well in court for references . One that knows the Narcs lawyer from school LoL
    Great advice HG .

  5. HG,
    As I stated in our consultation session, I am currently going through a divorce with my narc. It is a simple divorce, no children, and has dragged on for 7 months now. She tries to provoke me any way she can. This is her MO, as she typically bullies people into submission. But not me. I’m going to be the only one who has ever stood up to her until the end.

  6. Very helpful and timely advice for me personally. My ex husband recently moved abroad and soon after he stopped paying child maintenance so this is what I will have go through now. Unfortunately.

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