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Can a Judge See Through a Narcissist?

Narcissists will use any opportunity they can to abuse their victims, especially a spouse who they may have abused for many years or even decades.  The courtroom can be one of the biggest opportunities a narcissist will have to abuse their spouse before finally moving on to the next source of supply.  So, if a narcissist almost always uses the courtroom to abuse those they were supposed to love, honor, and protect, can a judge see through a narcissist?

As a general rule, judges can see through a narcissist, but not by using the term narcissist.  Judges can absolutely see through their behaviors, both in the courtroom and through evidence.  Their rulings will prove their understanding of the abuse that takes place without ever using the word “narcissist” in the courtroom.

So, now that we know that a judge can see through a narcissist by identifying their behavior, how do we help the judge to see the evidence more clearly, resulting in a ruling that is beneficial to the victims of narcissistic abuse?  Let’s take a look at several factors involved.

How a Judge Sees Through a Narcissist in the Courtroom

Historically, narcissists have been able to trick judges into thinking that their victims are the guilty parties and they are the victims in the case, whether a divorce case or other civil court case.  The narcissist is master of first impressions. By the time they are adults, they have become adept at knowing how to communicate to people what those people want to hear.  So, how do you prove to the judge that what he is seeing in your narcissist’s words and behavior is not reality, but the mask they wear?  The quick answer is that you trigger them.  Let’s take a closer look.

Your narcissist will paint a wonderful picture of himself in the courtroom. (I have said himself because that was my experience and there are more male narcissists than female.  Feel free to adjust the pronouns to fit your specific case.)   It will be your lawyer’s job to systematically dismantle the fantasy persona your narcissist has created. Your lawyer will do this through texts, letters, emails, witnesses, and other forms of proof that show what he says is very different from what he does.

My lawyer and guardian-ad-litem for my children both said that the judges have seen everything, so it didn’t take much to show the judges what was really going on.  And my lawyer had been married to a narcissist in the navy when she was young, so her experience closely matched mine.  Based on this, she knew exactly what to draw out of him and how to do it.  And she was genius at getting him to stumble over his words, get angry with her and shoot her the look of death, all while the judges looked on.

Ways Judges Miss Seeing Through a Narcissist in the Courtroom

There are times that, even with a great amount of proof, the judge for whatever reason doesn’t see through the narcissist.  Or they don’t realize the weight of the narcissist’s control and abuse over their family.

The first judge we had was an older man that was around retirement age.  He had seen everything over the years.  So when he got to us, he said the abuse didn’t rise to the level  of limiting how much time our youngest son spent with him.  When my lawyer appealed to the judge to at least not force our son to go to his dad’s cultish, weird church where my ex was religiously abusing him, the judge replied that he was not going to get involved with family religious matters.

The judge ruled against the recommendation of the guardian-ad-litem, which is a rare occurrence.  She had said there should not be overnights and my ex should not have our son on Sundays.

When we left the courtroom, the guardian-ad-litem called my lawyer aside and told her we needed to appeal the case to a different lawyer because all of the lawyers in circuit court, where the appeal would be heard, were all in tune with emotional abuse and narcissism.  I will give you the rest of the story below.

But my point in all of this is that often judges miss the narcissism because they are more used to seeing severe physical abuse, alcoholism, and criminal activity that affects children in negative ways.  Sometimes they don’t realize that emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse can sometimes be more insidious than the obvious stuff.

As much as that is true, I am learning that the court is learning more about narcissism and its harm to families all the time.  I think the day will come that children will be protected from these forms of abuse as well as what they are already protected from.

Difficulties in Getting a Judge to See Through a Narcissist

Sometimes, no matter how good a case you and your legal team set up for the court to hear, there will be difficulties in getting the judge to see through a narcissist.  There are a few reasons for this case, albeit none are very good reasons in the scheme of things.  Here are some of them:

  • The judge is out of touch with emotional maturity/emotional abuse issues.
  • The judge is angry at either men or women in general based on bad experiences in his/her own life and rules accordingly.
  • The judge could think that children should be “seen and not heard,” a belief that is prominent in many older people.
  • The judge may see so many horrific things over time that s/he doesn’t give enough legitimacy to the harm that is being done in your case.
  • The judge is tired and doesn’t comprehend what is going on in the hearing as well as s/he should.
  • The judge is actually a narcissist.
  • The judge is fooled by your ex’s narcissism.
  • The judge makes most of his/her rulings halfway between the sides, not recognizing the severity of issues that it will cause.
  • The judge doesn’t really care what your issues are, therefore rules without understanding the problems s/he prolongs or intensifies.
  • The judge doesn’t try to protect anyone in your case because he feels that you caused your own issues by getting involved with your narcissist.

There are so many other situations, but you can see here that even if you have the best of cases, it isn’t always enough to make the judge in your case rule the correct way.  And often, judges will try hard to rule fairly, but they can’t fully understand all that has transpired in such a short amount of time that the hearing goes on.

My hearing lasted for six hours.  And while the judge did very well to understand the severity of our situation, she did not rule as well as she should have according to the standards of Virginia law.  But she did understand enough to get us mostly what we needed to protect ourselves.

Check out my article about what happens when a narcissist loses in court.

How Your Behavior in Court Affects How a Judge Sees Through a Narcissist

It is critical that you maintain a calm and composed demeanor in the courtroom, but also anywhere you go.  Everything you do reflects on your own issues and emotional maturity, or lack thereof.  If people perceive you as a loose cannon every time they interact with you, it could give your narcissist a chance to malign your character.

It is important for every witness, counselor, court worker, and lawyer to see you fully in control of yourself.  They will be the ones who help you build your case.  And they are the ones who will have the opportunity to show the court that you did everything you could to keep the peace and work things out in an emotionally healthy way.  If anything can help the judge to see what is going on in your world, that would be it.

It was comforting to me to have the bailiff come up to me after one hearing to say that I was an amazing mom.  And another time, a lawyer chased me outside of the courtroom to tell me that the judge had to be incredibly impressed with how I had raised my son that had testified based on how he had spoken to her in her chambers regarding how he wanted her to rule.

One of the most important ways you can watch your behavior is around your children.  They do not need to see you unhinged after witnessing or even experiencing the abuse of a narcissist parent.  Additionally, if you show them by example how to remain emotionally steady and healthy in the face of adversity, they will learn how to react to difficult situations in all of life.  And, if you combine all of that with excellent counseling, you will not only be preparing your children for what they will face in court, but also to be able to deal with court (if they need to) in a responsible and healthy way.

What Happens When Judges Don’t Identify Narcissistic Behavior in the Courtroom?

It is possible that a judge is totally tricked by the narcissist.  When they rule in favor of a narcissist, what they don’t realize is that they have now allowed the narcissist to further abuse the whole family through custody of the child(ren).  And when a judge gives the former couple joint legal custody, it gets even messier.

When a narcissist gets joint legal custody with the other parent, it puts the children in a dangerous position in many ways.  Let’s take a look at some of them.

  • When a narcissist gets joint custody of his children, he can keep his wife constantly running, trying to get information regarding the children for him that he hadn’t historically cared about.  While this may make him look like a caring father on one hand, in the case of a narcissist, it is just to keep himself in front of them and show them that he can still control what they do and decide.
  • If the non-narcissistic parent should pass away, it leaves the child in the full custody of the father.  This can be devastating to a child who has been protected by the parent that they have now lost.  And then it allows the narcissist to once again have full control and ability to abuse the child unchecked.
  • Sharing legal custody with a narcissist can cause chaos in the home, even when he isn’t there.  Inappropriate text messages, and other forms of control just won’t go away.  They can continually lie and demand things out of selfishness and an inability to see anybody else’s needs but their own.
  • Legal custody can be a weapon the narcissist uses to be in charge of children that he never really took much interest in.  He will use it more to punish the other parent than because he cares about his children.

It is critically important for judges to understand narcissism and the harm it causes to the family.  If they don’t understand, they will most likely rule in ways that the narcissist will be able to continue to control, manipulate, and abuse until the child grows up.  Unless, of course, he finally loses interest and moves on to better supply.

The narcissist can use joint legal custody to control where a child goes, who they see, and what they can do.  Admittedly, it is harder if they are not physically with the child.  But it still affects where the child can go when they are with them.

And finally, the narcissist can continue to abuse his family by repeatedly dragging them to court for random things.  If he is affluent, he can continue to do this forever.  There was a woman in my DivorceCare support group who was being sued multiple times at once, often in districts all over her state.  She was so devastated by all of it.  Her ex had lost all custody during their marriage and divorce, as they were removed from their home in the middle of the night with only the clothes on their back as police came to protect them.  The last time I talked to her, she was demoralized, saying that she knew he would never stop and this was her lot in life.

If you think you are in any danger in your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Or you can visit online at

When spending time with a narcissistic parent, the child may miss important activities because the narcissist refuses to take them.

When a narcissist is spending time with their child(ren), they can forbid them from going to places they should be going to, even if the court order says otherwise.  The only solution to this is to go back to the courtroom, which takes a long time, doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome, and can cost an arm and a leg in addition to all of the previous court costs paid.

This happened with our family, although it happened while we were still in the process of divorcing.   We ended up having to appeal our case to a judge who could understand the ramifications of narcissistic abuse.  And while she did understand a lot of the abuse, she did not rule in a way that totally protected our youngest son.  And with that, let me tell you how things turned out for us i in court in the end.

My Experience with my Narcissist in the Courtroom

Our final custody appeal hearing lasted for six long hours, with only one 10-minute break.  It got pretty heated at times.  My ex had dismissed his lawyer because he didn’t have enough money to continue with him.  (Mis-managing money had always been a problem for him.)  That was a great advantage for me.  Not even lawyers will represent themselves.  I knew I probably now had a big advantage, unless the judge took pity on him, which none of them did.

The last lawyer we had, after six hours, had a pretty good picture of what my ex was like.  She saw the lies, the exaggeration of how he was such a good and loving father, and the testimony of children that showed he had not ever been much of a dad to them.  Until it was time to fight me in court.

The judge, in her ruling, told my ex that he had destroyed his family with religion.  And with that, he got no Sundays with his son.  No overnight visits because my ex got married and moved 90 minutes away without even telling his son.  (He got married just six days after we got our divorce papers in the mail, so he didn’t really tell very many people at all.)

But, what she didn’t catch on to was the lies my ex told about me in the courtroom to make me look like I was as bad as he was.  While my lawyer did a good job of showing that he was lying most of the time, she did chastise me slightly for fighting with him, which the evidence showed otherwise.  I had stopped engaging him a long time before that court day.

We still got most of what we needed in that custody hearing.  Jordan only had to go out with his dad for a few hours once a weekday and a few hours every other Saturday, with the ability to spend more time if he had plans that needed that.  He has actually spent much less time.  Now, over a year later, he spends about 8-10 hours a month with his dad, instead of the 18+ court ordered hours.  And they never talk between visits, even though my ex insisted he be allowed to call him daily.

Because we fought so hard on the custody side, I ended up with only about 60% of the money our state says we should be entitled to.  At a time when inflation is at an all-time high, it has been difficult, but we will make it.  I know my family is safe.  And eventually I can tell him I don’t need any of his money.  Which will be a victory for him.  But even more of a victory for me and our children.

The one thing the judge did that was disheartening was tell us in her ruling that she felt that if everybody left mad at her for not giving us what we were asking for, she had done a good job.  That was not cool at all.  It puts my youngest son at risk, especially if something were to happen to me and he ended up entirely with his father again.  And it allows my ex to still exert control over us and manipulate us.  We still deal with his narcissism on a regular basis.  And she never has to hear about it again or be accountable for the continued abuse.

And before I close out this article, I thought you may be interested in these articles:

Why Does God Hate Divorce?

Are There Biblical Grounds for Divorcing a Narcissist?

What is the Narcissist Divorce Rate?

What Can we Say to a Christian Friend Who’s Divorcing?

Why Does God Hate Divorce? 

Will the Church Support Divorcing a Narcissist?

Divorcing a Covert Narcissist:  What to Look Out For

5 Signs Your Husband Wants a Divorce, and How to Prevent It

5 Signs Your Wife Wants a Divorce, and How to Prevent It

Guarding Against the Narcissist’s Divorce Tactics

How a Narcissist Regrets Divorcing You

What is the Narcissist Divorce Rate?

Surprising Examples of Divorce in the Bible

Does God Really Forgive Divorce?


Judges have a very difficult job to do.  They have to figure out where the truth versus the lies are.  They have to balance all the wrongs out and all of the rights.  And it is nearly impossible with the time they are given to do it.

What was your experience in the courtroom?  Were you able to gain more than you lost?  Was it an easy experience or a drawn out, horrible battle?  Or maybe somewhere in between?  How have things been since then?  Have you been able to go no-contact with your narcissist?  I would love to hear your story and how you have risen above it all.  Or your continues struggles so I can pray for you.  And I’m sure there are many who can be encouraged by your story and how it relates to what they may be going through now.  Please feel free to comment below.

Hugs and love,

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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