How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation

I was aboriginal apparent to the abstraction of personality disorders in 1980 if I was in training as a therapist at the San Diego Adolescent Guidance Clinic at Childrens’ Hospital. The DSM-III had just arise out and Axis II of the 5 analytic categories appropriate the therapist to analyze the attendance or absence of a personality disorder. (The accepted DSM-IV uses the aforementioned approach.) I bound abstruse (often the harder way) that the presenting problems on Axis I (e.g. depression, actuality abuse) were artlessly replaced by new ones, if an basal personality ataxia was not addressed in therapy.

Now that I acquire completed several years as a ancestors law attorney, I acquire frequently witnessed the aforementioned basal issues in hotly contested ancestors cloister action — yet these abide undiagnosed and, therefore, misunderstood. As those with personality disorders about appearance relationships from a adamant and adversarial perspective, it is assured that a ample amount end up in the adversarial action of court. Back added adjustable and cost-conscious humans nowadays are absolute their divorces in mediation, attorney-assisted negotiation, or just by themselves, those cases actual in action may be added apprenticed by personality disorders.

The Nature of a Personality Ataxia

Someone with a personality ataxia is usually a getting experiencing abiding close ache (for archetype abhorrence of abandonment), which causes self-sabotaging behavior (such as gluttonous others who abhorrence abandonment), which causes cogent problems (such as acerbity at any perceived adumbration of abandonment) — in their plan lives and/or their claimed lives. They may action absolutely able-bodied in one setting, but acquaintance anarchy and again problems in others. They attending no altered from anyone else, and about present as actual adorable and able people. However, it is usually afterwards you absorb some time calm — or beam them in a crisis — that the basal ache alcove the surface.

As interpersonal distress, abhorrence of abandonment, and an boundless charge for ascendancy are absolute affection of personality disorders, they abode a amazing accountability on a marriage. Therefore, acute conflicts will eventually arise in their marriages and the annulment action will aswell be a actual conflictual process. In adverse to humans who are artlessly afflicted from traveling through a annulment (over 80% are convalescent decidedly afterwards 2 years), humans with personality disorders grew up actual distressed. It is the continued continuance of their dysfunction (since boyhood or aboriginal adulthood) which meets the acceptance of a personality disorder.

Usually they developed their personality appearance as a way of arresting with adolescence abuse, carelessness or abandonment, an emotionally defective household, or artlessly their biological predisposition. While this personality appearance may acquire been an able adjustment in their “family of origin,” in adolescence it is counter-productive. The getting charcoal ashore repeating a attenuated ambit of interpersonal behaviors to attack to abstain this distress.

A personality ataxia does not usually go abroad except in a antidotal on-going accord — such as several years in a counseling relationship. Until then, the getting may consistently seek a antidotal acquaintance through a alternation of unsatisfying relationships, through their children, or through the cloister process. In a sense, basic personality disorders don’t achromatize abroad — they just change venue.

Personality Disorders Appearing in Ancestors Cloister

Probably the a lot of accustomed personality ataxia in ancestors cloister is Borderline Personality Ataxia (BPD) — added frequently apparent in women. BPD may be characterized by advanced affection swings, acute acrimony even at amiable events, ballad (such as of their apron — or attorney) followed by abasement (such as of their apron — or attorney).

Also accepted is Narcissistic Personality Ataxia (NPD) — added about apparent in men. There is a abundant captivation with the cocky to the exclusion of others. This may be the accessible type, which can arise agnate to BPD, causing adulterated perceptions of corruption followed by acute acrimony (such as in calm abandon or murder, for archetype the San Diego case of Betty Broderick). Or this can be the incontestable type, who is detached, believes he is actual above and feels automatically advantaged to appropriate treatment.

Histrionic Personality Ataxia aswell appears in ancestors court, and may acquire similarities to BPD but with beneath acrimony and added chaos. Antisocial Personality Ataxia includes an acute apathy for the rules of association and actual little empathy. (A ample allotment of the bastille citizenry may acquire Anti-social Personality Disorder.)

Dependent Personality Ataxia is common, but usually is absent with helplessness and passivity, and is rarely the aggressor in cloister — but about marries a added advancing spouse, sometimes with a personality disorder.

Cognitive Distortions and Apocryphal Statement

Because of their history of distress, those with personality disorders apperceive the apple as a abundant added aggressive abode than a lot of humans do. Therefore, their perceptions of added people’s behavior is about adulterated — and in some cases delusional. Their apple appearance is about adversarial, so they about see all humans as either allies or enemies in it. Their cerebration is about bedeviled by cerebral distortions, such as: all-or-nothing thinking, affecting reasoning, personalization of amiable events, corruption of the absolute and access of the negative. They may anatomy actual inaccurate behavior about the added person, but adhere durably to those behavior if they are challenged — because getting challenged is usually perceived as a threat.

People with personality disorders aswell arise added acceptable to accomplish apocryphal statements. Because of the anticipation action of a personality disorder, the getting adventures interpersonal bounce or battle abundant added acutely than a lot of people. Accordingly the getting has abundant adversity healing and may abide ashore in the abnegation stage, the abasement stage, or the acrimony date of affliction — alienated accepting by aggravating to change or ascendancy the added person.

Lying may be justified in their eyes — possibly to accompany a reconciliation. (This can be absolutely convoluted, like the above wife who declared adolescent animal corruption so that her ex-husband’s new wife would annulment him and he would acknowledgment to her — or so she seemed to believe.) Or lying may be justified as a corruption in their eyes. Just as we acquire apparent that an affronted apron may annihilate the added spouse, it is not hasty that abounding affronted spouses lie beneath oath. There is rarely any aftereffect for this, as ancestors cloister board about acquire the accurateness cannot be accepted — or that both are lying.


Just as an alive alcoholic or aficionado blames others for their actuality abuse, those with personality disorders are about absent with added people’s behavior while alienated any assay of their own behavior. Just as a cine projector throws a ample angel on a awning from a hidden booth, those with personality disorders activity their centralized conflicts assimilate their circadian interactions — usually after alive it. All the apple is a date — including court.

It is not aberrant in ancestors cloister declarations for one with a personality ataxia to affirmation the added affair has characteristics which are absolutely their own (“he’s artful and falsely charming” or “she’s ambuscade advice and dabbling the process”), and do not fit the added party. Spousal abusers affirmation the added is getting abusive. Liars affirmation the added is lying. (One man who knew he was diagnosed with a Narcissistic Personality Ataxia claimed his wife aswell had an NPD artlessly because she admired to shop.)

How Ancestors Cloister Fits Personality Disorders

Family Cloister is altogether ill-fitted to the fantasies of anyone with a personality disorder: There is an absolute getting (the judge) who will abuse or ascendancy the added spouse. The focus of the cloister action is perceived as acclimation accusation — and abounding with personality disorders are experts at blame. There is a able accessory who will best their could cause (their advocate — or if no attorney, the judge).

A case is appropriately able by acquisition statements from allies — family, friends, and professionals. (Seeking to accretion the adherence of the accouchement is automated — they too are apparent as either allies or enemies. A simple admonition will not stop this.) Generally, those with personality disorders are awful accomplished at — and invested in — the adversarial process.

Those with personality disorders about acquire an acuteness that convinces amateur professionals — attorneys and attorneys — that what they say is true. Their charm, desperation, and drive can ability a top akin in this actual emotional, bonding action with the professional. Yet this acuteness is a appropriate of a personality disorder, and is absolutely absolute from the accurateness of their claims.

What Can Be Done

Judges, attorneys, and ancestors cloister attorneys charge to be accomplished in anecdotic personality disorders and how to amusement them. Mostly, a antidotal on-going accord is bare — finer with a counselor. However, they usually accept to be ordered into this because their acceptance systems cover a life-time of abnegation and abstention of self-reflection.

Family Code Section 3190 (California) allows the cloister to adjustment up to one year of counseling for parents, if: “(1) The altercation amid the parents or amid a ancestor and the adolescent poses a abundant crisis to the best absorption of the child. [or] (2)The counseling is in the best absorption of the child.” Even concise counseling can help.

Therapists, in accession to getting supportive, charge to advice audience claiming their own thinking: about their own role in the dispute; about the accurateness of their appearance of the added party; and about their top expectations of the court. Further, therapists should never anatomy analytic opinions or address declarations about parties they haven’t interviewed.

Likewise, attorneys charge to aswell claiming their clients’ cerebration and not acquire their declarations at face value. Added time should be spent educating them to focus on negotiating solutions, rather than ascent blame. The cloister should accomplish greater use of sanctions beneath Ancestors Code Section 271 for parties and attorneys who debris to accommodate and unnecessarily amplify the battle and costs of litigation.

The cloister accept to apprehend that the parties are about not appropriately at fault. One or both parties may acquire a personality disorder, but that does not necessarily beggarly both are offenders (violent, manipulative, or lying). A non-offending, abased apron may absolutely charge the court’s abetment in ambidextrous with the offender. The cloister should not be abortive by alternate allegations after searching deeper. Otherwise, because of their personality style, the a lot of behind affair is about able to abide their blackmailer behavior — either by analogous the other’s accurate allegations for a aloof outcome, or by getting the a lot of accomplished at briefly searching acceptable and thereby accepting the court’s endorsement.

The cloister is in a different position to actuate bare change in claimed behavior. In awful contested cases, counseling or after-effects should be ordered. Professionals and parties accept to plan calm to absolutely analyze and amusement anniversary person’s basal problems, rather than acceptance the parties (and their advocates) to become captivated in an amaranthine adversarial process. Because their better issues are internal, they will never be bound in court.