The 20-Wants List: A Powerful Tool

Grace’s 20-Wants/Asks List

The Power to Stop Problems with a Narcissistic Co-Parent *

Lists & Leverage

By Grace W. Wroldson the author of;

Book 1: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: 7 Self-Rules to Stay Sane

Book 2: How To Fight a Narcissist In Family Court and Win

Book 3: Co-parenting with a Sociopath: Survival and Sanity Guide

Book 4: How To Survive a Custody Battle with a Narcissist: 

When the Family Courts Force You to Co-Parent

Books are available at Amazon

Survivor-Tip: Know what you want and need when dealing with a narcissist as a co-parent!

If we make lists for grocery shopping, we must also be making lists for something as important as our custody case! With a well-thought-out list of our 20-Wants, we harness the power to stop and fix the problems that we encounter with the narcissist.

Watch this short intro here on YouTube.

My Custody-Case with a Narcissist Update

Moms often ask me, “What is the update on your custody case?” After 12 long, painful years of a high-conflict custody battle with an alcoholic, abusive narcissist, I am happy to report that we have peace! Not perfection, but peace. I overcame the family court dilemma and all of the problems the narcissist presented as a toxic co-parent. I went on to write four books with helpful tips, tools, and strategies, hoping to help other moms stuck in similar situations (books are available on Amazon). 

To summarize, in 2020, after losing all legal rights to my 8-year-old daughter (who had special needs) due to a series of failures by CPS (Child Protective Services), GAL (Guardian ad Litem), and U.S. Family Court, I was able to have my rights reinstated by the narcissist himself in January of 2024. Being severely out-lawyered at first, I survived a 5-day custody trial that in and of itself took 3 ½ years to reach. At that time, I was fortunate enough to salvage 50% physical custody because I strategically kept our child’s male therapist in place (who was also a GAL), and so we countered some of the court corruption taking place. Make a note: allies matter! I also bravely obtained my own psychological evaluation to thwart my ex’s attorney’s efforts to paint me as crazy. (Read my full story: What’s it Like to Lose in Family Court to a Narcissist?)

I now openly share my true survivor story with other moms. At the height of the conflict, I endured 3 biased and negative GAL interrogations and reports. The GAL appallingly and unbelievably recommended to our judge that I should have ONLY limited, supervised visits with our child—even though I was her primary attachment figure and caregiver, and my ex-boyfriend had supervised YMCA child exchanges currently in place for being so hostile. (Nope, I am not kidding!) What was worse, though, was being subjected to psychological examinations and 6 CPS investigations in my home—along with 2 years of an IRS audit initiated by the narcissist’s lies. Due to the conflict and false accusations, 3 of our child’s pediatricians resigned from caring for our child, and this led to wild allegations of me possibly having Munchausen by Proxy (a severe mental issue that’s rare, but that narcissists often use to win custody and silence their victims). The narcissist cleverly knew that pointing at me shifted everyone’s focus off of his sketchy behavior and reckless parenting. I was mother-blamed for everything except how well our child was doing. Read more in my blog: Family Court Failures For Protective Parents.

It was horrible just how much the narcissist got away with, and how much damage he could inflict with his character assassination attempts, flying monkeys, and minions. As a mom, I was just trying to keep a primary care physician for ear infections, but I was treated with such awful suspicion. I am not just a survivor of narcissistic abuse, but also co-parenting abuse, coercive control, DARVO, post-separation abuse, and legal abuse. Sadly, our child survived neglect and abuse as well.

After that humbling loss to unethical legal practices, and to turn my case around, I got down to the bare basics. Strategically, I used lists and leverage along with a blend of extreme patience, radical acceptance, expert support, an extensive education, my own Grey-Walling Method, my Skillful-Means Method, plus a better, more competent lawyer and wisdom to win things back. Also, I learned that I needed to brainstorm with my lawyer and other top family law lawyers about what to ask a judge for instead of just finding evidence to defend myself. I pushed myself to ask for a remedy for each problem we had in the docket, and thus I created my List of 20-Wants. Note: I never shared this directly with the narcissist. These were for my lawyer to use at strategic times in negotiations. (Read my free blog, Steps to Win Against a Narcissist in Family Court)

Now, no one understands why the narcissist is nice to me, but I do. Wisely, I studied, researched, and understood the power and control dynamics. I comprehended the main issues that a narcissist struggles with like extreme paranoia and rejection. I read dozens of books and watched hundreds of YouTube videos by the experts. I had to fully accept that the faulty, inadequate, inept, incompetent family court system was not in the business of child-abuse prevention—or, sadly, even child protection. After having 3 different judges who held full discretion in determining the “best interest” of my state, I realized that I had to play a different chess-game to protect our daughter and stay in her life. The flip-flop of failures of the family courts was happening across the U.S., where abusers were being given sole custody when any child abuse claim was reported. I had to accept that I couldn’t stop all the abuse of a narcissist but held onto hope that truth and time would help her overcome the trauma—along with therapy, validation, and support. The hope that we hung onto was that she wasn’t aging backward. This meant that soon she would get all the rights removed from me as her mother restored to her at the age of 18. Once I understood that my ex’s high-powered lawyer was using him for the billable-hour, and that she was unethical and part of the problem that kept my case locked in family court, I used strategies to move her out of the way. This included retaining a lawyer that I had seen defeat her in court arguments and letting go of my lawyer; who was loyal, caring, and understanding but completely out-matched. This included not pitting myself as the narcissist’s enemy or target of blame (TOB) and leaking information to him about how his lawyer was using him to make money and buy her 5th vehicle. I learned to redirect his anger away from me and used what I call “Skillfulmeans.” (Read my blog: 5 Factors That Made The Narcissist Stop!)

My pre-planned chess moves included being nice to the narcissist while strategically backing up into the family court microscope and documenting co-parenting details in such an organized fashion that it totally terrified the narcissist. My organization was key to how he usually won by throwing out accusations to see what would stick. I became non-emotional and unperturbed. I was in the business of co-parenting with a bad business partner, so I systematically gathered accurate and factual data—I was ready with dates of occurrences and made sure he knew I was keeping track. I became brave and bold enough to file contempts against the narcissist’s non-compliance of our court order. I found the right emotional support and strategy-planning partners to keep me standing and focused. In the end, I had the same judge who awarded the narcissist sole legal rights punish him and make him pay my legal fees on a few matters. All this effort was so that the narcissist understood that I wasn’t bluffing with my new offensive approach to the litigation nightmare, which he had previously enjoyed and relished. I won sole legal rights for our child’s therapy because my ex had canceled her therapist abruptly after winning and refused to follow the new court order of getting her re-evaluated for therapeutic services. I stopped playing a strictly defensive game and stood up to my ex (a scared bully) in multiple ways including in forced, court-ordered co-parenting therapy, which typically is a continuation of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse. However, I turned the tables on this by prepping for the situation and using effective techniques like telescoping. I took my time in exposing the narcissist systematically to the court liaison, and my ex unilaterally ended those sessions because he himself felt too threatened by the new me and the truth being revealed. I had gotten the support and healing from narcissistic abuse and could articulate things easily and not be so confused. (Read my blog: How To Deal With Co-Parenting Therapy With a Narcissist)

Meanwhile, I focused on our child and supported her through all his games, hostility, problems, inflicted pain, and trauma from narcissistic abuse. (Read my blog: 8 Ways to Help Children with a Narcissistic Dad) I went through it all with her and told her to hang onto hope as I turned the tide and reinstated our child’s same therapist that the narcissist abruptly removed. Then, I helped her go back to all her activities the narcissist canceled when he won. I held her hand as we brought her back to the local school district after she was forced for 3 years into an out-of-town parochial school by her cold and calculating dad. What’s better than restoring our child’s life to the one she had before the 2020 judgment? I was able to walk in and tour the middle school with the narcissist present and not be his enemy. Our child walked safely between us. After that tour, my child thanked me and told me how happy she was that we were both there. My efforts had paid off. (Read my blog: How To Communicate With A Narcissist Using Grace’s Skillful Means)

There are Generally Phases to Custody Cases with Narcissists

Before I get into the solutions, please recognize that the solutions that worked for me may or may not be right for you or where you are with your custody case. Custody cases with narcissists tend to go in phases like:

  • Phase 1: Separating/Boundaries/Grey-Walling 
  • Phase 2: Establishing Order/Maintaining Structure and Getting Support & Allies
  • Phase 3. Holding the Narcissist Accountable with Consequences and Monitoring
  • Phase 4: Becoming Cooperative, Helpful, and Easy-Going

So, depending on the phase you are in, it might mean that things don’t apply to you yet because you haven’t established boundaries. Please know that my strategies evolved and changed based on the needs at the time (in my unique case). I had over 100 different personal and legal strategies that I adopted and implemented at various times, although standing up to the bully with strength and then neutralizing and navigating the narcissist with skillful means seemed like the magic combination in my case. However, your case might need other strategies implemented that only a family law lawyer can create with you who knows your court’s procedures and judge’s preferences. I didn’t just go through this experience; I grew through it! Be sure to learn and label lessons so you don’t have to repeat any mistakes. I genuinely became a different person, so we didn’t have the same problems on repeat because I had changed so much. (Read my blog: Legal Strategies I Used in Family Court In A Custody Battle With A Narcissist)

*Here is my 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. Therefore, she cannot give legal advice or appropriate counsel and is 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, and some of these will not be applicable to your circumstance. 

Furthermore, court orders may dictate otherwise. Please use your own good judgment when watching this video or reading 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.

Let me ask you:

Do you know what you want and need the judge to order in your child-custody case to stop the problems, hassles, and headaches with a narcissist?

TIP/REMINDER: Know what you want when dealing with a narcissist as a co-parent. Knowing your rights and options, you will lead from a place of clarity, position, and strength. If the narcissist or his attorney try to pull you off the subject or onto what they want, you can always circle back to your requests in your ordered, numbered list of 20-Wants. I have ignored their diversion tactic and said, “Well, let’s go back to my first request of…. How can you accommodate this?” Do you see the difference!? The list provides the structure and supports you in negotiations. Don’t go in empty-handed unless that’s your lawyer’s strategy (to appear unafraid, or willing to go to trial). You are your child’s best advocate and sometimes the only one who will push for their needs to be met. Take this seriously and spend the time necessary to prepare. 

Our Focus Matters as Moms Dealing with a Narcissist

We need to focus more on the solutions than all the problems that the narcissist causes and the drama they create, which is designed to throw everyone off emotionally. This is why we need to draft an ordered, numbered, clear list of what we want/need in this co-parenting situation (For example, a court-ordered and approved co-parenting app, set days of a parenting schedule, a solid, rotating holiday schedule, reimbursement of the child’s expenses done within 30 days or an interest penalty applied and more). When we are bogged down with problems, we can’t find solutions. 

We need to sit down and think about what our children need now and in the future. Then, we search for the words of something to ask for—that gives it a voice and structure.

Need more ideas, guidance, and help? 

Use my 20-Wants Tool to help you stay focused at trial or have productive negotiations.

To buy my guide on creating your 20-Wants click here.  


By Grace W. Wroldson the author of;

Book 1: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: 7 Self-Rules to Stay Sane

Book 2: How To Fight a Narcissist In Family Court and Win

Book 3: Co-parenting with a Sociopath: Survival and Sanity Guide

Book 4: How To Survive a Custody Battle with a Narcissist: 

When the Family Courts Force You to Co-Parent

Books available at Amazon


Subscribe to my Blog

Buy Books

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This