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My Illinois Divorce Blog focuses on a variety of subjects, including the means by which to manage divorce and child custody with a toxic narcissist. I can say that almost every day, I receive a message that sounds like this that came today:

Message: I’m separated from a narcissist and he is constantly violating orders and trying to alienate my child from me. Now they are forcing me to go to court to face him in 2 days and I’m terrified. It will only make it worse. I need help. No one understands but I read your blog and you may be the only lawyer that understands.
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From Page:
https://www.illinoisdivorcelawyerblog.com/amp/illinois-divorce-empaths-marriages-narcissists/

 

This message is from someone being harmed by both the toxic narcissist in her life, and well as possibly by her local court system ( I get many calls each month from people outside of Illinois that need help, and I try answer most all of these calls with some help, resources like Bill Eddy’s Splitting book, and a lawyer referral if needed).  For over 25 years, my practice has focused, in large part,  on psychological issues in divorce, and issues that affect the wellbeing of the children of marriages involving personality disorders.

 

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Bill and Melinda Gates — known around the world as tech and charitable titans — are splitting after 27 years of marriage, at the ages of 65 and 56, respectively.

a man and a woman sitting on a bench
Credit: Alessandra Malito Market Watch 

Divorcing at an older age has become increasingly common. This phenomenon, called “gray divorce,” could be the result of a few factors, including the lessening of a stigma around divorce in general, longer life expectancies and differing opinions on what to do with the rest of one’s life.

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The announcement of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG) comes at a great time, as we start to try to emerge from COVID lockdowns, and restart these important conferences.  I received the announcement below this morning, and look forward to this conference.  “PASG has 700 members – mostly mental health and legal professionals – from 55 countries. The members of PASG are interested in educating the general public, mental health clinicians, forensic practitioners, attorneys, and judges regarding parental alienation. PASG members are also interested in developing and promoting research on the causes, evaluation, prevention, and treatment of parental alienation.”

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PASG 2021 Conference 9-10 September 2021

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More and more, people in their 50’s and 60’s are recognizing that their marriage has broken down, the children are raised, and they are seeking a legal separation or divorce. In these cases, there are often retirement assets that need to be divided, and other assets, like a home, that need to be valued and the equity determined.  As many American are living into their 80’s and 90’s, many adults find that the want to re-engineer their last trimester of life and find a measure if independence and happiness. Jennifer Thompson wrote an essay that might be helpful to those considering divorce later in life. While written with a female reader in mind, the advice is sound and applies to both men and women in some respects.  From her bio: ” Jennifer Thompson was a financial advisor for over 20 years. Now, as an author and international speaker, she teaches women the techniques to develop a consciousness for abundance for a more compelling life. ”

https://www.illinoisdivorcelawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/367/2021/01/FT_17.02.21_grayDivorce_featured-300x150.png

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7 CONSIDERATIONS WHEN GETTING A DIVORCE LATER IN LIFE?

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Bill Eddy’s High Conflict Institute always has great information in the field of managing High Conflict Personalities in the context of divorce and Family Law cases.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to manage some people that present as High Conflict; often these people have traits of personality disorders that make their behaviors and communications toxic.  As is pointed out below, the HCP (High Conflict Person)  is not going to change, but you as the stable and rational party can always choose how to respond.  One element that the article does not mention is the benefits to using a third party, such as a skilled Parenting Coordinator, to intercede in conflict situations, and allow the rational person to retreat to the safety of the Parenting Coordinator, instead of arguing or fighting with the HCP.  In other words, if the HCP wants a toxic fight, don’t reward the bed behavior. Choose better ways to manage HCPs, and preserve a bit a tranquil space for yourself and the children.

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The 4D’s of High Conflict Divorce

1. Disengage: You are in conflict with your child’s other parent because their words and actions negatively trigger and affect you and your children. And, like most parents, you will do anything to protect your children form harm – physical, verbal and emotional. If you take the time to sort through your triggers and plan a strategy for how to cope when triggered, you will be putting yourself (and your children) on a path for healthier conflict resolution.

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As the year 2020 comes to an end and a new year begins, it is always helpful to remember what approaches are helpful and uplifting when dealing with a stressful and difficult court case involving children, such as a parental alienation case or a child custody modification case.  One of my clients this week reached out to both myself and an excellent clinician that is supporting the case with a concern that her/his children are just so damaged, and so unruly in his time spent with them. Seeing the kids acting out, and suffering, causes my client to suffer, too.  Very positive steps are being accomplished in the case, and the clinical support has been excellent, but it’s still tough on parents that have to experience their kids in distress in the midst of parental conflict and the damage of an alienation campaign.  The following excerpt is excellent, and focuses on the need for parents to maintain a positive psychology in the midst of these court cases.

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Sharon Stines, PsyD: No matter what is going on in your personal life, particularly with regards to the challenges you are facing with your co-parent and children, it can help to avoid expending all of your energy focusing on what doesn’t work. Maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult, but try to practice gratitude by waking up each morning and welcoming the day. Notice the good things you do have and keep in mind the things in life you are thankful for, instead of focusing on the negative.

Another helpful practice is demonstrating resilience and confidence each day to your children. You do this by living these values, by genuinely showing your children your strength and love for them. Children may naturally gravitate toward strength. If you can show yourself and your children unwavering and positive strength through the process of living well, you may be able to minimize any damage caused by the other parent. This may, in fact, be one of the most important things you do for your children in the long run.

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I have had the pleasure to be a member of the American Psychological Association, for many years, and to devote myself to continuing graduate-level education in the psychological sciences.  Just as a medical doctor might benefit from a strong background or understanding in, say, nutrition, or kinetics, I have always felt that the practice of Family Law almost requires a fundamental understanding of psychology.  The article below is taken from an essay concerning a family lawyer that trained as a psychologist, and how this training has been integral to his practice.

Using his unique background in psychology, David – who has written a best-selling book called “Moving On: Redesigning Your Emotional, Financial, and Social Life After Divorce” – shares the difference taking into account mental health can make in family law cases.

How do psychology and divorce go hand-in-hand?

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In divorce and coparenting, not only do parents need to deal with their own emotions, they may be faced with a daily barrages of hostile calls, texts, social media blasts, and/or emails. How can you regain a sense of control and peace for your own sake and for the kids?

https://www.unhookedmedia.com/stock/biff-for-coparents

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I am always appreciative to be a member of the PASG, which is an international association of clinicians, academics, and legal professionals involved in the research of Parental Alienation, as well as the advocacy for better public understanding of PA.  Today, one of the members and excellent advocates in the PASG emailed this to me:

Dear Michael,

Our colleague Brendan Guildea B.L reports on a significant case that has wide reaching implications in the fight against Parental Alienation. Brendan will be one of the speakers at our Online Parental Alienation Conference on the 26th of November 2020.

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Characteristics of Narcissists in Divorce

1. He or she is in it to win it.

Even though there aren’t real “winners” in divorce—with luck, there’s some equitable splitting of responsibilities and assets—that’s not the narcissist’s point of view. He or she is likely to see himself or herself as a victim, regardless of the facts, and has no intention of meeting in the middle.

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