Get the Right Lawyer Guide
For Family Court Custody Battles
20 Questions or Less
©Copyright Grace W. Wroldson
*Not to be distributed or shared
The High-Conflict Custody Battle With a Narcissist
If you are in a high-conflict custody battle with a narcissist, you will need to not only be “evenly matched” in the courtroom, but also well represented and well prepared. Our custody case is often only as good as our attorney is. Not being adequately represented cost me my legal rights to the child that I was trying to protect. My former attorney, while affordable, was ill-prepared, not a family law attorney, unequipped, easily tricked (because he bargained with goodwill and sincerity), and not experienced enough to handle what happened.
If you read my books, you will read that I had to stage a comeback after my brutal trial and loss. (Get books on Amazon) If you can avoid losing, do so. To get my rights back, I had to interview several other attorneys to get more perspectives on my case. I had to choose the right one for my case. I still held the power of choice. Now, I was wiser and more aware! Don’t be out-strategized or out-lawyered! Use my 20 questions or less as your guide for interviewing potential attorneys. Save yourself by strategizing options.
Not All Attorneys Are Created Equal
Use this guide to help you ask the important questions and interview attorneys in your consultations. Feel free to write in your own questions to ask that you think are important.
I suggest getting at least 3 legal consultations. Then compare and contrast. Sleep on this decision and go with the one that feels right for you and the one you think can win. If the lawyer says “no” to any of the deal-breakers for you, then don’t proceed. It is crucial that you don’t talk yourself into another detrimental relationship by giving attorneys the benefit of the doubt.
The best way to know what attorneys are right is through referrals. You will need to read the reviews or get direct testimonies from their happy/unhappy clients. This may take some time to research and get the referrals. Spend this time researching. Learn all you can.
We Have a Legal System, Not a Justice System
If it were about justice then it would be different, but we have a legal system. We have to get a lawyer that knows Family Court Law specifically, like the back of their hand. A tax attorney is not the attorney you want for your family court case, even if he/she is a good person. (That’s just the type of attorney to lose a custody case with.) You want and need a specialist if your child’s health and well-being are at stake.
If you can’t afford this, become resourceful. Learn to ask for financial aid and assistance, learn to ask who could help someone in your situation. You may have to ask if they do any pro-bono work for free, or ask if they know an attorney who does. These interviews are critical to you making the best decision. Use the knowledge you gain from each interview for the good of your case. Learn all you can. Write what you learn down.
Another strategy is to go and observe family court cases on a day off. Watch and witness who’s who. That’s how I discovered my 3rd attorney. I watched him obliterate my ex’s attorney in front of the judge using facts and documentation. Oh, how I wish that, right then and there, I would have walked out of the court, gone to the nearest bank, and taken out a loan to hire him the next day. I would have never lost.
Don’t Underestimate the Narcissist
Don’t underestimate the importance of getting the right lawyer for you and your child. You could lose your rights to the child you are trying to protect, especially if you are asking for a narcissist’s money. Prepare that he might then try to take the kids. That’s a horrible trade-off and a typical pattern.
What tends to happen is… When you push his “money button” (his trigger), he may well push your “child custody” button (your trigger). Avoid pushing buttons unless that’s your competent lawyer’s strategy. All things need to be considered when making a move or filing a motion. Sometimes you need the child support money to be able to afford a lawyer with your own money. This must be considered.
Your Judge Matters!
Judges make horrible mistakes. Judges can be horribly unfair. Judges can have biases and buttons, themselves. Typically, judges determine parental rights based on equanimity and the best interests of the child. But, they can’t do this in just 15-minute hearings, that’s why they rely on reports for Guardian Ad Litems (GALs), Parental Coordinators (PA), and others. These recommendations tend to be completely biased (too) and favor the abuser who is charming, while the victim (usually the protective parent) looks destabilized and like the bad guy. Beware.
It’s important that you stay strong, stable, serene, and strategize. This is why the right attorney matters. You will need interviewing skills when talking to them. Do this preparation work. Have a strong story to present that shows you as a healthy parent. You need to present well with documentation if you have GALs involved. (Look for any trainings on how to handle GALs and PCs.) Dress professionally, just like you need to do at every court hearing (even on Zoom).
Bottom line: Don’t rely on a judge to “see-through” your ex and figure out who the high-conflict, abusive, toxic parent is. Also: Be sure that you don’t come across as a vexatious litigant. How you are viewed by the judge can be everything to your case. And know this. . . If you walked into 10 different courtrooms with the same situation and the same lawyers, you would most likely walk out with 10 different rulings. This is how vastly different each state, county, city, courtroom, and judge can be. See why the judge is of the utmost importance?
Here’s What To Know
What to Tell the Lawyer Upfront
You don’t want to tell your whole drama and trauma upfront to a prospective attorney. This not only turns them off but gets them sidetracked. You want to state what you want and ask if they can win. Simple as that. Later, you can get into more details once they are hired, but even then, stick to what you want to request from the courts. Preserve your relationship with your attorney if you have a good one by getting other support people to help you will the emotional overwhelm. Be mindful not to overwhelm your attorney.
The second thing to prioritize is telling your lawyer if your ex is in contempt of court. Is your ex not honoring a written and signed court order? Tell the lawyer. But remember, your lawyer is not your therapist. Don’t look to them for emotional support for this. They can’t sort out crazy either. What they do is file motions, attend hearings, prepare for trial with evidence and try to win cases. They just want to try the case with evidence and solid testimony. Most lawyers don’t want to hear “the story.” Spare them that. Don’t ask them to go beyond that or you will not only rack up a heavy legal bill but overwhelm them, tire them out, and drain their energy for your case. Chaos does this to everyone.
If there is child abuse/neglect, then you will need to strategize with them and get the help of other professionals. If there’s co-parenting abuse, get a therapist who specializes in narcissism, a domestic violence counselor who knows post-separation abuse, or a certified life/divorce coach who specializes in high-conflict divorce or custody battles with narcissists—specifically. You will need to spread out the problem beyond the attorney. You will have to strategize ways to cope, report, not-report, document, and manage a narcissistic ex — with others besides your attorney. This is one of my survival strategies. Getting legal advice is recommended last #1. However, getting the experts to weigh in on your case is definitely #2.
Learn From Interviews With Attorneys
Keep in mind that even if the attorney you interview can’t take your case, you will have learned a lot and have this information as a backup in case their schedule opens up or you lose your lawyer. Interviews that don’t result in hiring are just as valuable. This is why I consulted with the top attorneys first even though I knew I couldn’t afford them. Remember that the best way to know what attorney is winning for their clients is to have direct conversations with their happy customers. Also remember, divorce and custody cases are not about justice, they are about strategy. That’s why you specifically want someone who has thousands of hours of experience with family litigation and a great relationship with your judge.
A good rule to keep with yourself during these interviews is to: talk less and listen more. Even if there is a crazy amount of co-parenting abuse, child abuse, and neglect, simply state what you want and stick to it. Rehearse this if you need to. Write it down in simple 1, 2,3 in order of priority to you. Family court litigation can be very stressful, so stick to a strategy to stay out of too much stress.
Smart Strategies to Get the Best Lawyer:
- Ask your local Domestic Violence Agency workers for who their clients use in family court custody cases (you may have to call several offices to get names)
- Ask around and hear directly from satisfied clients (and be sure to read any online reviews)
- Sit in the family court and watch cases and lawyers performances
- Interview 3-5 attorneys and make the best, most informed decision that you can
The Long and Bumpy Road of Family Court
There can be many twists and turns in family court. If you lose, you can go back and win. You will have to ride out the storms and strategize to survive. This is why the zig-zag method often works. If your case is like mine and you are dealing with not just a narcissist but also a sit-back, smiling sociopath who loves the conflict and court battles, buckle up. To my ex, this was a spectator sport. So, unfortunately, you may be in this for the long run. If so, think strategically, financially, and long-term.
This can be a very long journey with several stops at injustice along the way. You may have to accept that you may never be able to make this right. So instead, find ways around this to make it right for you and your child. You can find ways around a narcissist or sociopath. I used skillful means. At some point you may have to fight, at other points, you may have to stop fighting your ex. You will need the gift of discernment and an experienced coach to help you skillfully navigate this dilemma. Don’t go it alone!
I recommend getting the help of mothers who have survived this and are now coaches and consultants themselves. However, know this; what worked for them may not work for you in your case. Don’t compare yourself to them because even while they share a similar story, there are so most likely many different details. These cases are complex. To find the right coach, you will have to interview them, too. Hear their story and take what’s helpful. Not all coaches are validating or have what you need. I probably interviewed 5 attorneys and 10 coaches before I found the right fit for me.
Please know your options and don’t get stuck with someone out of loyalty, fear, or worse—desperation. Finally, keep in mind that your attorney works for you! So, you may need to make requests, step up to the plate and ask for motions to be filed on your behalf or on the behalf of the children. I had to keep in mind the saying, “the wheels of justice turn slowly” and be very patient with the process.
To get my $10 PDF Get The Right Lawyer Guide, click HERE.
*Disclaimer: The author is not a legal expert. The author is not able to give legal advice. You must follow the legal advice of your attorney (unless you need to get a different attorney). The author is not liable for any harm, injury, damages, financial problems, bad rulings, in your case. It is up to you to make decisions. This is not a professional guide. This is based on the author’s opinions and experiences—only. This is not to be sold nor distributed. This is copyright protected by author Grace W. Wroldson.©
—Grace W. Wroldson, mother, author, survivor, and thriver of 5 self-help books available on Amazon
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- Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: 7 Self-Rules to Stay Sane (A Survivor’s Story)
- How-To Fight a Narcissist in Family Court and Win: Super-Smart Strategies for Success
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FYI: One of my BEST blogs so far is my 25 Steps to Win in Family Court Against a Narcissist.
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