Steps to Win
25 of Grace’s Best Practices
Learn with Grace – Heal with Grace – Grow with Grace
These tips are based on the Super-Smart Strategies in my books:
- How-To Fight a Narcissist in Family Court and Win: Super-Smart Strategies for Success; and
- Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: 7 Self-Rules to Stay Sane
By taking these steps to win, you can make your own “loss prevention program.” Being two steps ahead of your opponent can make all the difference in outcomes. Preventing losses in family court is much better/easier than trying to appeal an unfavorable court ruling. So, please take my survivor wisdom and use it for your own good.
NOTE: You will have to develop your own “Super-Smart Strategies” to win, but here are my key ones that kept my child and me safe from harm. Note: These are general ideas and my opinions that you may be able to apply to your situation. This is not legal advice or a proven method for winning. Each case and court system can be vastly different. This is not professional advice but rather insights from my personal experience.
- Get a better lawyer! Start Strategizing! I had to be evenly matched in the courtroom to go from losing to winning. I could not have done this on my own, without a legal background, law degree, or family court litigation experience. There were too many twists and turns and ins-and-outs of family court that I didn’t know about (and my first attorney wasn’t an expert in family law). I lost the first major round of court due to an ineffective lawyer. So, be sure to “shore up” this weakness and also find a way to do it within your financial means—even if this means interviewing and shopping several attorneys and professionals in your area or asking for pro-bono or free legal aid services. You want someone who is a match for your ex’s attorney or better! You definitely want someone with hours of family court practice/experience. A high-conflict custody case is notorious for zig-zagging unfairly and is not a straight line to truth and justice. Liars often win. Know that there can be court corruption too. Be mindful of this.
- Stay sane! I had to get a therapist and a domestic violence counselor to withstand the barrage of false allegations, attacks, and triggers. Deal with the triggers and PTSD with professional help. Contrary to what your ex might say, getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Request that the therapy be completely confidential and ensure that records can’t be subpoenaed. If this isn’t possible with a therapist, find a life coach, or call an out-of-town domestic violence agency by phone and don’t reveal your last name or identification. The last thing you want is your mental health to be used against you in a trial.
- Get stable! I had to be safe, stable, smart, sane, and supported to do battle with a narcissist. This meant managing what little money I had and making good financial choices. This also meant that I had to apply for assistance programs as needed to show the judge that I could responsibly cover the basics of food, water, shelter, and clothing. I had to prove that I was a stable parent by the way I lived. Do this for yourself and your child!
- Get educated on narcissists! I needed to know the tricks and tactics. It was important for me to know what to expect and what kind of monster I was up against. Finding out the words, language, and terms for all types of narcissistic abuse was very handy. It created a shield I could hold up when words were used as weapons. Once I knew the game, I could play it better. Once I knew he was warring with me, I could strategize my next moves of his fight. Once I could say it was harassment and bullying, I could identify it and not fall victim to it. Knowledge truly is power!
- Get good support for your child! I had to get a reliable, ethical, incorruptible therapist who was well-respected, degreed, and had the utmost credibility in the family courts. I brought my child to the therapist for six years to prepare for the inevitable child-stealing maneuver from my ex. Having an ally to testify saved my case. The right support can help your child deal with feelings and it can help save/win a custody case. Do your research and get referrals. Interview potential therapists and give them a heads up about the high conflict nature. Make sure this person will be an ally, as well as an asset for your child. When you can’t advocate for your child’s safety and needs, a good therapist can and will. Find one that can’t be made into a negative advocate against you.
- Spend time loving your child! I poured all of my energy into loving my child when she was with me. I made sure that we had a solid bond of respect and love. I also made sure that we were making fun memories together — even when I couldn’t afford expensive toys. What mattered to me most was preserving the love we had for each other over any hate that I had for my ex
- Create a happy childhood! I made it my goal to build a happy childhood for my child even though her dad wouldn’t participate and often tried to outdo, or one-up me. This resulted in my child having good and happy memories with me that he couldn’t steal or sabotage. I knew that my child only got one childhood so I wanted to make it as wonderful as I could.
- Safeguard against parental alienation claims! To do this, I invited her father to every public event involving the child, knowing that he would either show up, try to steal the limelight, and pretend to be the best dad in the world (which was infuriating), or not show up at all. I documented the invitations that I extended to him and what he didn’t appear for. This became part of my testimony.
- Use Our Family Wizard (OFW) religiously! I made sure that our court order had the use of a 3rd party parenting app (like OFW) that could be used to track the conversations and be presented in court. These became trial exhibits. He often asked for us not to use this tool because it bothered him. I never backed down from keeping this as a staple in our agreement, even though he used it to abuse and harass me. Even though I couldn’t fix his crazy behavior it was at least documented.
- Present well! During CPS investigations and GAL investigations, I made sure to present well. I did my own image management and made a good first impression. I took this one out of the narc’s playbook. I made sure to list my accomplishments as a mother and present my strengths. Sometimes I even brought my lawyer to protect me and be a witness to these interrogations. Image is everything when outside eyes are looking in.
- Prepare for a trial! I mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for a battle even though I was a peace-loving person. Here’s the thing: I knew he preferred fighting/arguing/war and that we would continue to be in a high-conflict custody battle. I also prepared by getting letters from agencies in support of me being a good mom. “I am preparing for battle” was the mindset I had to live by to stay vigilant. I also knew his lawyer enjoyed getting her high-priced hourly rate so we would never make it to mediation. She ensured this.
- Get organized! I created a filing folder bin and organized all the documents for my child from her therapists and such. This organization was key for me to find evidence and submit to my lawyer when needed. I easily found letters that defended me or proved important things.
- Give professionals a heads up! This self-defense maneuver helped doctors, schools, and others know that my ex often made false accusations and triangulated people into going against me. I let people know up front that there was a long, high conflict history and that if anything sounded concerning to please ask me for the facts as he often skewed information about me. It essentially immunized them from him spreading his virus of mother-blaming. This also helped prevent some of the character assassinations he embarked on at her school and other places.
- With the right support, (legal, etc.) fight back! A few blows to the credibility of the narcissist in family court can help shed the light of truth on things for your judge. If your ex is repeatedly found in contempt, this will help you win in the long run. Plan for a marathon—not a sprint! After being a punching bag, the only way to stop some blows from “landing” is to sometimes just punch back (meaning—filing motions and contempts, not actual punching). It’s also true that the only way to get up off the floor is to stop being a doormat! I did this by not agreeing to all the terms that he wanted in agreements. He was often surprised when I said, “No.”
- Latch onto and use the power of prayer! I had to have many heart-to-hearts and soul-to-souls with myself to make sure I was heading in the right direction. Having these intimate moments to check my moral compass and motives made sure that I wasn’t just walking straight into defeat or creating danger for my child by unnecessarily angering her father. I had to calculate the risks of everything I did. I learned the power of prayer as a way to strengthen my resolve and push through my fears. It helps to have a Higher Power or something loving/benevolent to believe in. It definitely provides an advantage over a narcissist or sociopath.
- Address weaknesses! Do an inventory of why you lost or why you might lose! Shore up any of your vulnerabilities. Change circumstances that nullify his complaints against you—whatever they are!
- Have a team of allies! It’s important for a few safe people to know what you are dealing with (provided they don’t gossip and backstab). Watch out for that! A high conflict case is juicy gossip and disturbs everyone’s conscience. Having people who will testify that you are a good person and a good mom will be helpful since the judge needs to see you as a good parent. If you don’t have these relationships due to being a victim of isolation, create them. IMPORTANT NOTE: If your own parents’ testimony will only harm you, don’t use them as character witnesses.
- Be prepared! Build a bubble. Mentally and emotionally prepare to face the typical narcissistic tactics of smear campaigns, false accusations, flying allegations, character assassinations, triangulations, and poisoning-the-well tactics. Create your own self-study course and know what these are! Remember: Knowledge is power, or at least a heads up! Then, create a bubble to block out the effects of those negative psychic free radicals. Shield yourself!
- Manage your stress! Make a stress reduction program for yourself, and follow it. Get an accountability buddy to ensure that you are following through with self-care. Narcissists are super stressful. Even more so, the court can be loaded with stress and triggers. It can be upsetting on so many levels (the man you used to love now wants to destroy you!?). Create your own plan. Mine included power walks twice a day.
- Create buffers! You will need ways to stop direct attacks from your ex. This includes, but is not limited to: “No Trespassing” orders, pick up/drop off witnesses, YMCA supervised transfers, Our Family Wizard, a lawyer, family court orders, etc. These are firewalls that prevent you from being further directly abused by his anger.
- Learn to play hardball! Sure, you want peace, but unfortunately, sometimes it can only be found on the other side of war. Be willing to have bold and strong boundaries and have consequences issued for offenses. Know that it’s not your fault if he fails to comply with a court order or intervention. That’s on him! It’s well known that repeat abusers can only be controlled with accountability, monitoring, and consequences. If that doesn’t work, they go to jail. TIP: Don’t feel sorry for your abuser. That’s an emotional trap that does not serve you.
- Keep quiet and don’t reveal your game plan! Don’t tell him what you are planning to do. Don’t give him slight threats, hints, or reveal your strategies. Don’t give him a clue, just plan in complete secret with your confidential team. Tipping off the enemy with your evidence helps them refute the truth later with a twisted clever lie. Give him nothing!
- Find out what he’s got against you! If you read the affidavit and find out that he’s listed lies, then plan to have solid evidence to support the truth. Don’t go overboard with being defensive. Don’t fall into fear either. Just do this for your lawyer who, at the right and proper time, will share the evidence with a judge in a hearing or bring it out in a custody trial. Don’t go to your ex with your anger and try to justify, defend, or explain so that he gets it and stops. He is purposely using anything and everything he can to win. He won’t change his mind about you, because it serves him to think bad of you. Plus, he will just use your confrontation against you later somehow.
- Write or journal your pain! Get your pain on the page. Write letters of encouragement to yourself daily. Write the truth about what happened to you and what’s happening now. Expel the toxic emotions that get stirred up from injustice and abuse. The pain is real, and it is intensified because our children might be hurting too. Our momma-bear reaction is natural but it has to be tamed so that we don’t get in trouble. Keep this confidential and use a pen name if you publish.
- Get inspired! Read stories of survivors! Survivor wisdom is incredibly valuable. It offers deep insight and hope. Read my books on how I overcame this high conflict custody battle which was really abuse-by-proxy. My ex used the legal system to abuse me and exert control over me for ten years. It was a punishing act that he disguised as concern for our child. Since then, I have listened to and read other mothers’ journeys, dilemmas, and successes. Each story I came across offered me something special for me to hang onto. I eventually became my own story and I decided to write a happy ending for myself by making only healthy choices and setting loads of boundaries.
Bonus: #26. Don’t communicate your weaknesses! I see this all the time. . . desperate mothers emailing/messaging their ex and trying to get them to do the right thing, begging for some type of empathy and compassion. Stop this if you are doing this by trying to get some semblance of human decency from a narcissist. You are just feeding him your pain. Don’t feed your pearls to pigs!
Bonus: #27 Encourage yourself! Create and have a personal mantra! This can carry you all the way to a win. Here are some examples:
- I can and will do this!
- I can and will overcome this!
- I am well able to withstand this court abuse!
- I am equipped and empowered by knowledge!
- I have my intellect on my side. I am smart.
- Just for today, I will do what needs to be done.
- I love and care for myself.
- Even though this situation is difficult, I face challenges and obstacles in my way.
- I’ll get through and grow through this!
- I am taking this one day at a time.
Do: Write these down and post them in highly visible areas to keep yourself encouraged.
*Disclaimer: These are helpful tips based solely on the author’s thoughts and opinions. The author is not a qualified mental health professional nor a crisis caseworker. She cannot give legal advice or appropriate counsel and is therefore not liable for any injury or harm. Please follow your doctor’s, therapist’s, counselor’s, and lawyer’s advice, as well as your own good common sense and intuition based on your unique case—to see if these tips could be helpful. Child custody situations may vary where some of these will not be applicable for your circumstance. Furthermore, court orders may dictate otherwise. Please use your own good judgment when reviewing this document. This is for personal self-help only. These were created from the author’s own lived experience and not based on any laws or rules of the courts. This is copyright protected by the author and is not to be sold, distributed, or quoted without the author’s written consent.
—Grace W. Wroldson, mother, author, survivor, and thriver of 5 self-help books available on Amazon
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Read my books:
- 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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