Financial Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist: Part 4


The Complete Guide to Divorcing a Narcissist is a seven part series. Financial Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist is part Four.  See below for links to the remaining parts. Why do narcissists financially abuse their spouses? How do narcissists use money to abuse? What financial strategy works against a narcissist?

True narcissists believe they are above the law and that rules do not apply to them. This makes them notoriously difficult to deal with in divorce. Narcissists typically refuse to provide financial information and documents, refuse to negotiate, and refuse to follow court orders. They will continue behaving as though entitled to whatever they want out of the divorce.

Narcissists are also notorious for financial domestic abuse and the economic exploitation of their spouses. Even when their abusiveness is obvious, narcissists still believe they are the victims.

Why do narcissists financially abuse their spouses?

Why do narcissists financially abuse their spouses?

Why do narcissists financially abuse their spouses?

We’re talking about domestic financial abuse – the use of finances to threaten, frighten, manipulate, and control the victim.[i] Money is power, so the narcissist uses all available financial resources to dominate and control the relationship.

How do narcissists use money to abuse?

Characteristically, all narcissistic spouses employ the same insidious tactics to control the couple’s money and financially abuse their spouses. These are some of those tactics:

  • A narcissist gives or provides something to the other spouse, but with strings attached. The victim is always indebted to the narcissist.
  • A narcissist controls all the financial resources. The victim’s money belongs to them both, but the narcissist’s money only belongs to the narcissist.
  • A narcissist conceals assets. The narcissist will hide property, assets, and cash from the victim.
  • A narcissist lies about what he owns, earns, or has. Believing the narcissist has nothing, the victim spends her money paying for everything.
  • A narcissist controls the income. The narcissist takes the victim’s paycheck and controls how the money is spent.
  • A narcissist holds the other spouse in total dependency. The narcissist makes all the money and all the financial decisions while the victim has no career or earnings.

Importantly, there are narcissists who make no money (so their victims spend everything on them), and there are narcissists that make all the money (so their victims depend on them for everything).

  • A narcissist complains about what he or she wants, but will not assume any of the debt or sign any loan agreement. The victim pays for whatever the narcissist wants and carries the debt. For example, both names are on the property title, but only the victim is on the loan.
  • A narcissist siphons assets out of the other spouse. Whatever the other spouse holds or owns, the narcissist will contrive and manipulate away from them, leaving the victim with the debt. For example, the victim quit claims the house to the narcissistic spouse while the victim alone remains on the mortgage.
  • A narcissist hides his or her spending. The narcissist spends money without accountability but blames and shames the victim for purchasing any small item or necessity.
  • A narcissist will financially punish the other spouse for the divorce. The narcissist who was paying all the bills will stop paying them. If the victim was paying all the bills, the narcissist will go on a spending spree with the victim’s credit card. In both instances, the narcissist’s objective is to destroy the victim’s credit rating.

Those are only some of the insidious tactics that narcissistic spouses commonly use.  For a more detailed discussion, see Financial Abuse, Narcissists & Money: A Divorce Lawyer’s Perspective.

What financial strategy works against a narcissist?

What financial strategy works against a narcissist?

What financial strategy works against a narcissist?

You can expect the narcissist’s abusive behavior to encompass control over all family financial resources. Money control is a key source of narcissistic supply,[ii] and your narcissistic spouse will not give it up willingly.

Expect your narcissist spouse to use every imaginable tool to extend the court process. Refusing to cooperate, refusing to comply with court orders, refusing to provide documents, refusing to settle, all of these behaviors draw-out the legal process. The longer the divorce takes, the more it costs. And the more opportunities the narcissist has to continue manipulating and controlling you.

Given how predictable their behaviors can be, divorcing your narcissistic spouse will require financial preparation on your part. Jeff Landers, CDFA,[iii] an experienced divorce financial advisor published on Forbes.com, emphasizes the need for you to take these three steps in advance of divorce:

  1. You need to have “funds on hand.”

Jeff Landers advises “having a substantial war chest of cash at the ready.” Litigation in a contested divorce is expensive. Make sure you have more than sufficient funds readily available. You will need this money to survive the battles ahead.

You also need to establish a good credit-rating in your own name. Landers says, “You cannot be without your own credit card in the future and may need to qualify for personal loans.” If establishing good credit involves more advance time before filing for divorce, then so be it. Take the additional time.

  1. You need to gather your financial paperwork.

Anticipate that your narcissistic spouse will resist or flat-out refuse to provide financial information in the divorce. This shifts the burden to you. Get hold of all the financial and legal documents you possibly can ahead of the divorce.

Get everything on the financial information list that your experienced divorce attorney gives you. Gather income tax returns, business financial statements, bank statements, loan applications, retirement and pension assets, employment deferred compensation, brokerage statements, life insurance, debts, real property holdings, personal property, vehicles, credit cards, charge accounts, judgments, memberships, safe deposit boxes, and the like. You need to be thorough, yes, but you also need to think outside the box. Remember, hidden assets and undisclosed debts are not uncommon with narcissistic spouses.

  1. Assemble the best divorce team possible.

You will need a respected, knowledgeable legal team supporting you throughout the divorce. For the best possible outcome, your team must be familiar with the specific concerns involved with divorcing a narcissist.  In addition to your divorce attorney, your team may include a divorce financial planner and a qualified therapist.

The financial aspects of a divorce can be demanding.  What assets exist?  How do we find out if my spouse is hiding income or assets?  What is marital or separate property?  Pensions.  Retirement plans.  Timeshares.  Incentive stock options.  What is a fair property division?  Child support?  How much spousal support and for how long?  How does anyone tackle all of this?  One step at a time.  It is what family lawyers do.

Do you need money now to eat, live, and put gas in the car?  If your experienced family lawyer recommends asking the court to order temporary support or a temporary custody order, seriously consider it.  Be aware that, even if a court date is set for a temporary order hearing, many temporary support and custody matters settle prior to a hearing, or the day of the hearing.  If you can’t settle, then having a hearing may be just what the doctor ordered.  It shows you are not afraid of the process or the legal system.  In many situations involving a need for a court to order one spouse to pay the other’s living expenses, doing nothing may be the worst possible option.

If you implement those three divorce financial strategies, then you will be well on your way to taking on your narcissist spouse.

View more of our series, Complete Guide to Divorcing a Narcissist:

  1. Stages of Divorcing a Narcissist
  2. Divorce with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  3. How To Divorce a Narcissist and Win
  4. Financial Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist
  5. How to Negotiate a Divorce Settlement with a Narcissist
  6. Divorcing a Narcissist with Child Custody Disputed
  7. Divorcing a Female Narcissist

More resources on Divorcing a Narcissist:

  1. Divorcing the Narcissist – Our original post describing the clinical definition and general introduction.
  2. Financial Abuse, Narcissists & Money: A Divorce Lawyer’s Perspective – Mason’s popular video sharing his experiences and thoughts.
  3. Divorcing a Narcissist: Six Family Lawyers’ Advice – Six nationally recognized family lawyers discuss their experiences and advice.
  4. Finding a Divorce Lawyer Who Can Handle Opposing a Narcissist – Mason’s thoughts on what divorcing spouses should look for.

End Notes:

[i] This is discussed in my video about Financial Abuse, Narcissists & Money: A Divorce Lawyer’s Perspective.

[ii] Because of some trauma or incident, often in childhood, this person sustained a narcissistic injury resulting in a lack of self-value or self-worth. Because the narcissist has no internal ability to generate a personal sense of value, he or she requires a steady supply of ego-fuel from external sources.

[iii] Financial Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist.

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