How Personality Disorders Can Influence Child Custody

July 20, 2016

narcissistic personality

A personality disorder lies at the heart of the difficulties that lead many married couples to separate. Self-serving, odd, and sometimes harmful behaviors arise from the ways personality disorders cause a wife or husband to view and interact with the world, themselves, and others. Each situation is different, but the result of spending years living with and trying to accommodate an individual who can be capricious, mean-spirited, uncaring, paranoid, accusatory, duplicitous, or quick to anger can, understandably, become too much to bear. 

Children of parents with personality disorders suffer alongside spouses, often without any understanding of why their mother or father treats them coldly or cruelly. Divorce courts and judges recognize this, so they prefer to grant custody to a parent who does not show signs of a personality disorder. Accordingly, a man or woman who cites mental and emotional problems in a divorce petition should work closely with a child custody attorney who knows how family law treats personality disorders. 

What Is a Personality Disorder? 

Mental health professionals and court officials primarily rely on the DSM-V to classify and diagnose a personality disorder as one of the following: 

  • Paranoid personality disorder—expressing extreme distrust and suspicion of other people and organizations
  • Schizoid personality disorder—displaying little or no emotion and almost totally withdrawing from social interactions
  • Schizotypal personality disorder—becoming withdrawn from others and detached from reality, sometimes to the point of experiencing delusions and of seeing things no one else does
  • Histrionic personality disorder—seeking attention by acting out in overly emotional ways, flirting excessively, and dressing provocatively
  • Dependent personality disorder—giving into neediness and almost compelling others to take care of oneself
  • Borderline personality disorder—experiencing intense mood swings and controlling impulses poorly
  • Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder—being a slave to perfectionism and engaging in repetitive, sometimes pointless, actions for fear of something “bad” happening if the ritual is skipped
  • Avoidant personality disorder—reacting to negative feedback in very unhealthy ways and always being the first person to criticize oneself most harshly
  • Antisocial personality disorder—showing disregard for the rights of others and lashing out in anger while also being deceitful and manipulative
  • Narcissistic personality disorder—expressing high levels of entitlement and a false sense of superiority 

One of the complaints the Ohio divorce attorneys with Edward F. Whipps & Associates hear most often from clients is that their spouse displays signs of narcissistic personality disorder, including self-centeredness, lack of empathy, constant fault-finding, complaining of victimization, fantasizing about “deserved” successes, pouting and immaturity. A narcissist can make a poor parent because he or she consistently places their own concerns above those of their sons and daughters while also assigning blame for failures to the youngsters. 

How Is Evidence of a Personality Disorder Collected and Presented? 

Any time a mental illness or personality disorder is believed responsible for breaking up a marriage and family, the spouse seeking the divorcee should request psychological assessments. A divorce court judge can order this if a man or woman will not speak with a psychologist or visit a psychiatrist voluntarily. Refusing to comply with such a court order will jeopardize the noncompliant individual’s case for retaining child custody, receiving shared custody, or having expansive visitation rights. 

A skilled divorce lawyer in Ohio can also help a client prove mental competency and emotional stability. Meeting with an analyst or medical care provider chosen by one’s soon-to-be ex yields a single opinion that may not be complete. Presenting assessments from one’s own mental health care provider can mean more to a judge than a report unsubstantiated by a second opinion. 

If you believe your spouse’s personality disorder makes him or her a poor parent undeserving of child custody, you should speak with the divorce attorneys at Edward F. Whipps & Associates. We have longstanding relationships with mental health evaluators, and we have decades of combined experience helping clients achieve their best results in Ohio family courts. Schedule an appointment online or call us at (614) 461-6006.




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