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  • Laura McGee, J.D. Divorce Mediator

Can Divorce Mediation Work When You Are Divorcing A Narcissist?

Updated: Jan 10

how to do divorce mediation with a narcissist

Let’s be honest; it depends. Divorce mediation can be a viable and effective alternative to the very slow-moving and costly litigated divorce process when divorcing a narcissist. Still, it does require you carefully select a highly skilled and experienced mediator, and you both have to agree to mediate. Mediation is a voluntary process.

While divorcing a narcissist can present unique challenges, a well-trained and experienced mediator will have the skills and tools to keep the room safe and manage name-calling, gas-lighting, and other acting-out or manipulative behaviors. The mediator can help set the pace of the process and balance the control issues prevalent in these types of divorces, and of course, with time efficiency comes cost efficiency. Divorce mediation in California is a confidential process that can make it more appealing to a narcissist who may have some behaviors he or she prefers not to be aired in the public forum of a litigated divorce.

Here are some reasons why divorce mediation might work, and even work better than litigation, when divorcing a narcissist:

  1. Control over the process: In mediation, both parties have more control over the outcome than in a litigated divorce. A strong and well-respected mediator can be particularly beneficial when dealing with a narcissistic spouse who may seek to dominate or control the process. Mediation allows you to actively participate in negotiating and shaping the terms of your divorce settlement.

  2. Confidentiality: Mediation is a confidential process, which means that the details of your discussions and agreements remain private. This can be advantageous when divorcing a narcissist, as it may discourage them from engaging in public theatrics or attempting to use the court process to manipulate or shame you.

  3. Facilitated communication: A skilled mediator can help facilitate effective communication between you and your narcissistic spouse. The mediator can establish ground rules for respectful dialogue, manage power imbalances, and focus the discussions on resolving issues that move you forward rather than getting caught up in personal attacks or fault-finding over past and not relevant battles.

  4. Focus on interests: Mediation encourages parties to identify and address their underlying interests and needs rather than getting stuck in positional or adversarial stances. By focusing on shared goals and finding mutually beneficial solutions, mediation can help diffuse power struggles and reduce present and future conflict.

  5. Flexibility and creativity: Mediation allows for more flexibility and creativity in crafting solutions that meet the specific needs and concerns of both parties and the whole family, where there are children. This can be particularly valuable when dealing with a narcissistic spouse with unrealistic and untenable demands. Mediation can often lead to more satisfactory outcomes for both parties as the final Marital Settlement Agreement will be detailed and drafted to be both unambiguous and sustainable so as to reduce the likelihood of future litigation.

  6. Cost and time efficiency: Mediation generally takes less time and is more cost-effective than litigation. This can be especially advantageous for divorcing couples as it reduces the opportunities for a narcissistic spouse to engage in prolonged legal battles or exploit the slow-moving and costly legal system to drain your financial resources.

  7. Long-term cooperation: Mediation can help establish a framework for future cooperation between you and your narcissistic ex-spouse, especially when there are ongoing co-parenting or financial arrangements to manage. By fostering a new protocol for communication and clear rules and/or timelines, mediation can ensure the post-divorce path is clear, and you can both begin to heal and move on with your separate lives.

How to do divorce mediation with a narcissist:

Perhaps you are now thinking, okay, I am open to the idea of exploring divorce mediation as the best option for divorcing my narcissist, I am confident in my strategic fortitude of how to do divorce mediation with a narcissist, but how do I actually navigate the divorce mediation process? I cannot navigate the bureaucracy do this alone.

If you are divorcing a narcissist, you do not have to go it alone. There are well-trained divorce coaches, therapists, consulting attorneys, and certified divorce financial analysts who can work with you behind the scenes to help guide and support you through your divorce process. As a divorce coach, I build my client’s team. I often work with individuals mediating with other mediators to help them find their voice and gain agency as they move from victim to survivor to a place where they can feel certain that life after divorce from a narcissist will be an opportunity for growth and freedom from the control that usually earmarked the relationship.

Clients who build a team take on the strength and foresight of their guides. They experience catharsis and healing as they become empowered to make proposals and counter-proposals; they become less triggered and immobilized by their spouse’s narcissism and typically gain the wisdom to see their soon-to-be former spouse from a place of the strength of a survivor rather than the weakness of a victim.

It's important to note that mediation may not be suitable for every divorcing couple, particularly in cases where your spouse is physically abusive or has extreme coercive financial control over you. If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of your children, it's crucial to prioritize your safety and that of your children above all else. Get a counselor who is a mandatory reporter, and consider finding a divorce coach familiar with the top divorce attorneys in your county so you have help vetting the best attorney match for you. You need an attorney skilled at countering the maneuvers of a narcissistic spouse and who will be honest with you about the limitations of the legal system in California when divorcing a narcissist.

Laura McGee is an experienced divorce mediator and divorce coach; she is a certified co-parenting specialist with extensive training, experience, and knowledge in all aspects of alternative dispute resolution. Laura is a student of many advanced mediation trainers, including Bill Eddy, and has extensive training in mediating high-conflict personalities. Laura works with divorcing couples and individuals throughout California and has a physical office in the Village of Carlsbad. Laura offers a complimentary Discovery Session. Book online to learn more about divorce mediation or divorce coaching with Laura McGee.

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