Articles Posted in Clinical Issues in Divorce

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Being in a marriage with a narcissist can be extremely challenging, and a number of my clients have exhibited symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder after years of living with a partner with narcissistic traits. My firm’s practice has a focus on divorce and custody issues for clients separating and divorcing a person with toxic narcissism. Dr. Johnson’s article, below, highlights some aspects of this pathology.

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Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that the narcissist is someone who has “buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.” This alternate persona to the real self often comes across as grandiose, “above others,” self-absorbed, and highly conceited. In our highly individualistic and externally driven society, mild to severe forms of narcissism are not only pervasive but often encouraged.

Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self. Deep down, most pathological narcissists feel like the “ugly duckling,” even if they painfully don’t want to admit it.

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As part of my law practice I am fairly heavily invested in the study of psychological issues in divorce, including issues such as personality disorders and the pathology of parental alienation. Included in my approach to the psychology of divorce is the study of how to make life changes less stressful and how to manage a divorce and custody case with tools to lessen the severe stresses that a contested divorce involves.

Reading an article from a prominent psychologist neuroscientist and author, the following observation was made:

“The stress of divorce is … equivalent to the stress of experiencing a car crash every day over six months.” Lyubomirsky, 2013, p. 15 of “What You May Not Know – Soundbytes from The Myths of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.

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My practice is devoted, in part, to complex custody litigation. I have always believed that to practice in this area at a high level, a focus, if not a passion, for clinical issues was required in order to best serve my clients and their children’s best interests. For over a decade I have been a member of the American Psychological Association, and other professional associations focused on psychology and legal issues.

I was particularly pleased this year to be admitted by invitation and application to Forensic Forum. Forensic Forum is a select group of clinicians, judges and lawyers that meet via seminars, meetings and dinners to discuss developments in law and psychology affecting child custody and other related issues in the family court. Forensic Forum describes its mission this way:

” The purpose of this organization is to provide education, study, consultation and services to the legal and behavioral sciences professions and to the community; to establish dialogue among professionals involved with law and behavioral sciences; to explore ethical and legal issues at the interface of law and the mental health professions; and to enhance ethical practice at this interface. It is the mission of the Forensic Forum to offer informational services to the public and to the respective professions regarding optimal practice in the areas of behavioral sciences and the law.”

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In my work in Divorce and Custody Law, I have been involved, as well, with a number of Abuse and Neglect cases in Juvenile Court. Some of these cases arise out of an initial divorce filing, and a finding is made that there is active abuse or neglect occurring within a family environment. My law school alma mater, the University of San Diego, conducted a study that examined the efficacy of law intended to protect abused and neglected children.

From the study:

” Laws intended to protect children from abuse and neglect are not being properly enforced, and the federal government is to blame. That’s according to a study by the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which says children are suffering as a result.