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Problems with sharing custody with a narcissist

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2023 | Child Custody and Visitation

Unfortunately, divorce in California can add plenty of complexity to the lives of both adults and children. While co-parenting agreements may seem rather straightforward in practice, challenges can arise when one parent is uncooperative. In some instances, these conflicts are caused by personality disorders such as narcissism. Whatever the case, a solution that is optimal for the children must be found.


First, it’s probably good to understand exactly what a narcissist is. Just because you don’t like your ex does not mean they are a narcissist. While traits of narcissists may exist in certain people, clinical narcissism can be diagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder. While obtaining a clinical diagnosis can be difficult, there are certain signs to look out for. This includes:

  • a great sense of entitlement
  • lack of empathy and interest in the needs of others
  • a purely self-involved outlook
  • the use of manipulation
  • a complete lack of empathy
  • arrogant personality

Co-Parenting with Narcissists

Unfortunately, achieving a working co-parenting relationship with a narcissist after divorce can be extremely difficult if not impossible. For one, narcissistic parents may not feel the need to share things like work schedules and itineraries with the other co-parent. Such a parent may react negatively and even violently to standard requests. Conflict may escalate to the point it becomes out of control. The narcissistic parent may talk badly about the other parent and try to turn the child against them.

Parallel Parenting

While dealing with a narcissistic parent can be tough, some solutions may be tried to deal with the situation. One of these options is something known as parallel parenting. This involves shared child custody, but the court limits interaction between parents. Getting the narcissistic parent to agree to such an arrangement may be difficult and require some legal wrangling.

Overall, while dealing with a narcissistic parent can be complicated and frustrating, a child should know both their parents after a divorce. Work with the court to find a feasible solution if the co-parenting agreement fails.