February 27, 2010

Responsible Single Fathers and Illinois Divorce

If you are a single parent, or a parent involved in a pre-divorce or a divorce process, consider spending some time with www.singlefather.org, the home site for Responsible Single Fathers. I was one of the original directors for this organization, at the invitation of Vince Regan, who created and was the driving force behind, RSF.

Today, David Cisco directs RSF, and the site has a significant amount of information for single and newly divorced Fathers. The site has a forum where single Dads share information and legal topics. Here is a summary of the original mission of RSF:

"The development of Responsible Single Fathers allows fathers the ability seek support from others through one of four message boards at the site. We expect this forum alone will serve thousands of U.S. Fathers as they adjust to living the single life, while still loving, nurturing, and supporting their children." Regan continued, "Another section of the site allows experienced single fathers to share their tips with others by submitting their own single father articles for publication on the site. The world is full of experts on a number of subjects, but single fathers who have lived through the turmoil of divorce and the resulting conflicts have a wealth of positive information to share with fathers who are just beginning down that same road."

Responsible Single Fathers has always been about supporting single parents and their beloved children; it is not a classic "father's rights" site. The site is positive and supportive; there's no bashing or negativity. I am proud for the small part that I played at the beginning of RSF, and more proud today of what David and all of the participating Fathers are doing in support of Dads, all Parents, and their Kids.

February 27, 2010

Illinois Divorce, Custody, and the Narcissist Spouse

Much of my work focus around complex and sometimes high conflict custody cases involving Borderline personalities, and other psychological disorders. With BPD custody cases, and many other cases, there are elements of the narcissistic personality. What characteristics define a narcisisist? A recent article, "Beware the Narcissist; Know the Signs," by Heidi Stevens (McClatchy) offers a solid description:

``Narcissism is an epidemic in our society,'' argues LIsa Scott, author of It's All About Him: How to Identify and Avoid the Narcissist Male Before You Get Hurt (CFI, 2009). ``Our culture breeds it.''

While it's one thing to watch reality show contestants bask in their own glory for the sake of finding love, it's another to find yourself dating such a character -- man or woman.

So, how do you avoid such a fate? We turned to the experts for tips on sniffing out the self-obsessed.

THE SIGNS

The American Psychological Association identifies nine traits of narcissists, five of which need to be present for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) diagnosis:

• Feels grandiose and self-important for reasons not supported by reality.

• Obsesses with fantasies about unlimited success, fame, power or omnipotence.

• Believes he/she is unique and special and can be understood by and associate with only other unique or high-status people.

• Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation.

• Feels a sense of entitlement.

• Exploits others without guilt or remorse.

• Is devoid of empathy.

• Tends to be envious of others or believes others are envious of him/her.

• Displays arrogant and haughty behavior.

The biggest red flag, Scott says, is lack of empathy.

``They're unable to see that other people have feelings,'' she says. ``Narcissists only enter into a relationship to stroke their ego. They disconnected from themselves a long time ago in order to avoid feeling, so they need the outside world to validate their image.''

So, the whole relationship revolves around meeting the narcissist's needs and wants, while yours go unnoticed. The trick to spotting lack of empathy, or any of these traits, for that matter, is penetrating a narcissist's ego-shield -- also known as charm.

``Narcissists are gifted manipulators who can sweep anyone off their feet,'' Scott writes in her book.

That's why it's not enough to focus on someone's early behavior. Focus on how you're being treated throughout the relationship. Scott maintains that after the chase has ended, a narcissist's true colors will show.

``He becomes demanding and angry, unaware that the other has needs or a separate self at all,'' Scott writes. ``He is not consciously mean. He simply finds it impossible to see others as independent entities.''

Individuals with BPD and NPD present with these traits, and these traits, when severe, make healthy parenting problematic. Children are independent entities that need care, nurturing and validation; parents with pathology have difficulty offering this kind of support to children. The needs of the parent trump those of the children,and when the children's normal developmental needs frustrate the NPD/BPD, raging, criticism and other forms of abusive parental acting out can occur.

If you have concerns about BPD or NPD in your family or in your divorce case, visit my friend Randi Kreger's site, www.BPDCentral.com, and contact my office for an initial consultation if a divorce or other intervention is needed to protect the developmental health of your children.

February 24, 2010

Divorce, Custody and Borderline Personality Disorder

I have spent a good part of my legal career working in the area of divorce and custody in the context of a parent with suspected or diagnosed BPD and NPD traits. Borderline personalities in divorce cases make for higher conflict cases, and when the cases involve the custody of children, many times there are elements of domestic violence, false allegations of domestic violence or sexual abuse, distortion campaigns, and parental alienation. I was fortunate to write the foreword to, and help edit, Bill Eddy's landmark book on divorcing a borderline or narcissist, Splitting.

Today I saw a reference to a recent Time Magazine article on BPD. "The Mystery of Borderline Personality Disorder," by John Cloud.

"A 2008 study of nearly 35,000 adults in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 5.9% — which would translate into 18 million Americans — had been given a BPD diagnosis. As recently as 2000, the American Psychiatric Association believed that only 2% had BPD. (In contrast, clinicians diagnose bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in about 1% of the population.) BPD has long been regarded as an illness disproportionately affecting women, but the latest research shows no difference in prevalence rates for men and women. Regardless of gender, people in their 20s are at higher risk for BPD than those older or younger.

What defines borderline personality disorder — and makes it so explosive — is the sufferers' inability to calibrate their feelings and behavior. When faced with an event that makes them depressed or angry, they often become inconsolable or enraged. Such problems may be exacerbated by impulsive behaviors: overeating or substance abuse; suicide attempts; intentional self-injury."

What concerns me most in cases involving personality disorders is the high likelihood of levels of parental alienation by the disordered parent, along with false allegations made by the disordered parent to harm the other parent's custody case. If you are in a divorce with BPD or NPD, or contemplating a divorce from a disordered spouse, please contact my office to arrange an initial consultation.

February 13, 2010

Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog Named Top Divorce Blog

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Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog and Law Offices of Michael F. Roe is pleased to have been announced as a Top Divorce/Family Law Blog for 2009-2010 by Attorney.org. In addition to featuring breaking legal news, Attorney.org profiles different organizations and associations around the country to promote awareness and bring well deserved recognition to different causes.

I enjoy writing for my Firm's blog, presenting cutting edge issues and developments in Illinois Divorce, Custody, and Family Law. I will continue to do my best to illuminate important issues in Illinois Divorce law, and share with my clients and followers of the Blog insightful information that affects divorcing families.

Issues concerning parental alienation, high conflict divorce, psychological issues in custody cases, collaborative and cooperative divorce, and trends toward shared parenting will be just a few of the subjects that I plan to focus on for 2010.

February 9, 2010

The Pro Se Divorce, or Representing Yourself in a Complex Divorce

I talked recently with one of the clerks of the court in the west suburbs about the number of new divorce filings in Kane and DuPage Counties. I was told that the number of filings is slightly behind 2009 numbers, but that the number of people filing and representing themselves, without an attorney, has risen fourfold.

Now, I'm a believer and proponent of encouraging people to handle matters that they can handle themselves. I recently advised someone who called me that her DuPage child support case could be handled, pro se, at the pro se night court that DuPage has instituted, as a means of helping people get simple adjustments to child support without having to hire a lawyer.

I also feel that divorce and custody cases are often challenging for the litigants, emotionally charged, and complex. The issues presented in these cases really need an experienced attorney, much like the old saw about doing one's own dentistry.

Cathy Meyer, of About.com, writes:

"Before you take on the job of representing yourself in your divorce case consider the legal aspects, not only the emotional aspects of the divorce. If you are not able to keep the two separated, it is best to hire a divorce attorney. Issues such as dividing marital property, deciding child custody, negotiating alimony and determining child support can have long-lasting, negative consequences if not handled properly.

You have the right to represent yourself, to be a Pro Se litigant but, the divorce process can be complex and I highly encourage anyone who can afford representation to seek it, if at all possible."

The Law Offices of Michael F. Roe practices collaborative and cooperative divorce, two lower cost, efficient, low stress divorce models that keep the divorcing couple out of court, and keep money in the parties' pockets, and difficult emotions in check.

Call my office today to learn more about lower cost, lower stress divorce, and reconsider whether a pro se divorce is right for you and your family.

February 7, 2010

Divorce and the Narcissistic Personality

Through the years, I have been involved with divorce and custody cases that involved elements of unhealthy narcissism. My friend and colleague Billy Eddy's book, Splitting speaks in detail of the difficulties dealing with litigants with NPD and BPD. I am often consulted on cases involving BPD and NPD in custody cases.

Psychologists are fascinated by narcissists, both why they are attractive to healthy partners despite on some level recognizing their dysfunction, and because they embody so many paradoxes. Extreme narcissists inevitably reveal their true nature to those around them and are eventually rejected. So why don't healthy people (and the narcissists) learn?

The charming narcissist:

To find out, social psychologist Mitja Back and university colleagues decided to investigate (Back et al., 2010). They asked 73 freshman students who had never met before to introduce themselves to the rest of the class, one by one. Each person was rated by all the others on how likable they were as well as being videotaped for later analysis. After the session all the students filled out some questionnaires, amongst which was an assessment of narcissistic personality traits.

Here are the findings:

1. Narcissists were more popular at first site. Self-rated narcissists were initially more liked by others than non-narcissists.

2. Participants liked narcissists' sense of entitlement most. Of the four aspects of narcissism they studied, leadership/authority, self-admiration/self-absorption, arrogance/superiority and entitlement/exploitativeness it was the last of these that most predicted liking.

3. Narcissists look, sound and move better. The reason narcissists were popular is because they used more charming facial expressions, a more confident speaking tone, wore more fashionable clothes, had more trendy haircuts and were funnier.

Naturally all these effects only hold true in the short-term. Narcissists are usually soon found out and shunned since few people will put up with a self-absorbed, authoritarian, arrogant, exploitative partner.

Divorcing a narcissist, or person with traits of BPD, creates enormous challenges, especially in disputed custody cases. My practice has dealt with these challenges for many years, and if you have questions about divorcing someone with NPD or BPD, please contact my office.