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What Happens When a Narcissist Loses in Court?

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   November 22, 2023

Narcissists don’t like to lose.  And they will do anything they can to avoid losing at literally everything.  So, when the stakes are huge, their effort to win rises proportionately.  But, in the best case scenario, the narcissist does not win.  So, then, in that case, what happens when a narcissist loses in court?

When a narcissist loses in court, he does not consider the ruling the end of things.  He will either appeal to force a win, seek revenge outside of the courtroom, or, when there is no chance of reclaiming a win, go start a new life where they can avoid ever having to deal with the loss again.

Let’s take a look at this in more detail.  Oh, and because of personal experience, I use male pronouns to refer to narcissists.  Feel free to adjust the pronouns to fit your personal situation.  And with that, let’s begin!

When a Narcissist Loses in Court, They Will Appeal the Case

This option the narcissist will choose often depends on how much money they have.  And narcissists are not well known for managing their money, or any other aspect of their life, very well.  Of course, there are affluent narcissists everywhere.  And they do have the money to fight their families in court.  There is one lady who attended my DivorceCare support group.  Some years ago, with the help of police,  she and her children fled their home in the middle of the night.  They had nothing but the clothes on their back.

The court system and lawyers did the best they could to set the family up (unfortunately, that is a rare even in the courts here).  They were able to set up a household and did very well.  Except that her now ex-husband sues her in multiple courts concurrently, always causing grief and misery to her.  The children are now grown.  But they all still have to deal with a narcissist who continues to sue for random reasons in counties around the state because the county they divorced in had a clause in the divorce decree that he couldn’t sue once the divorce was final.

The last time I spoke with her, she tearfully told me that it would never end as long as she was alive.  In my simple mind, I don’t understand why she her lawyer can’t just show the court documents saying no more lawsuits, the history of all of the cases (there were about 5 during the few months she was in our group), and get the new cases immediately dismissed.

I’m not sure what pleasure that man gets for what he continues to do to his family.  Except that he forces her into court and to have to see his face years after his abuse was halted by the legal system that he now uses against her.

I am glad that most cases aren’t quite this bad.  But do know that if a narcissist has the means, he will continue to use the court to abuse his spouse and children until he no longer can.

You may be interested in my article about what it looks like when God leads you to divorce.  And you may be interested to read about the crazy games narcissists play during divorce.

I was fortunate to win custody in court.  Unfortunately, he won the money part because I didn’t have the energy to fight and knew he was using legal means to screw us over, but couldn’t figure out what that was until about 2 years after the divorce was final.  He screwed his family out of about 40% of the support we were entitled to.  But everybody who has known him over the years sees him living his best life with the woman he cheated on me with, while the kids and I live in an apartment and try to rebuild our life.  As long as he doesn’t think about it, he can deny what he has done that the whole world can see.

And as for the custody case, he got about 12 hours a month in visitation.  Right now he is using about 8 of those hours.  And he doesn’t bother to go to court ordered counseling to try to build his non-existent relationship with the one son who still has to spend time with him.  He says he’s fine and doesn’t need counseling.  Which is what he told the 7 or more previous counselors before they had him removed from the home for abuse.

Check out my article on how to expose a narcissist in court.  And you can also check out my article on how to prove narcissistic abuse in court.  Both of them should be really helpful to you as you are preparing to go up against your narcissist in court!

When a Narcissist Loses in Court, He Will Seek Revenge Outside of the Court

When narcissists are not financially or otherwise able to fight in court for control of their wife and/or children, they will still seek revenge outside of the courtroom.  Here are some of the ways they will seek that revenge.

  • Narcissists will seek revenge by escalating things behind the scenes to cause you to react outrageously for all to see.  It is critically important that you do not respond to a narcissist’s goading.  Not reacting to what he does to you will frustrate him initially.  But it will eventually make him give up because you are not giving him the reactions that fulfill his need for narcissistic supply.  He will move on to better supply.
  • Narcissists will use the children to get revenge when they lose in court.  They may sue in court for custody or money, and if they lose what they are demanding, they will make your life going forward miserable.  In my case, as I mentioned above, he got a few hours a month, which he doesn’t even use.  But he does use what little time he spends to force his youngest son to spend time with him, knowing he doesn’t want to see his dad.  He knows that it messes with our schedule and is disruptive to his life.  And he knows that he isn’t giving him any real value in the time they spend.  He just does it to show he can control us.  And the court allowed it after our lawyer, the guardian-ad-litem, and my son’s counselor all suggested he not be forced to spend time with his father.  The lawyer’s response in her ruling was that she considers her rulings good when everyone walks away unhappy.  She has no idea how much damage she does in the meantime.  Fortunately, his counselor is on guard to pull him back into court and testify the moment abuse gets out of control.  And this is an opportunity for me to teach my son how to function through people who are abusive no matter where they appear in  his adult world.
  • Narcissists will seek revenge by trying to paint you in a negative light among people who know you.  But fortunately, if you are emotionally mature and heal from the narcissistic abuse, he will be the one who exudes negativity.  And you will be surprised at how many people will understand what went on, even though they don’t have the sordid details.  For more on this, check out my article about where you find support when in the depths of separation and divorce.

You need to be careful in your interactions with your narcissist.  For more on this, check out my article about narcissists who destroy who they cannot control.  While he may be seeking revenge after losing against you in court, he will likely be kind to your face (especially if you are in public or around other people).  Don’t take that to mean you can let your guard down.  You can never let your guard down.  And if you have learned anything from the years with your narcissist, it is that he will do the vast majority of his damage underhandedly.  You usually won’t know about the harm done until much later.  This is where having a lot of excellent boundaries in place will be a lifesaver for you.

If you need more help in knowing what boundaries to set, how to set them, and how to keep them over time when your narcissist will be bucking against them constantly, check out the book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  I recommend this book all the time because it was a total life changing book for me.  I learned how to relate in healthy ways in all of my relationships for the first time in my life.  Check it out.  You will be so glad you did!

When a Narcissist Loses in Court, He Will Leave His Current Life to Find a New “Successful” Life

The narcissists needs narcissistic supply above all else.  Losing in court does not give him much narcissistic supply.  What it does do is deepen the shame that he already carries around like the proverbial ball and chain.  So, at this point, when the narcissist can’t appeal and win, revenge gets old and with you setting boundaries is ineffective, and they have exhausted all other avenues of narcissistic supply with you, their only other option is to seek a new primary source of narcissistic supply, a new life.

My ex had already moved on to another woman while he was supposed to be repairing our marriage and family life and returning home.  This was primarily because he couldn’t bully his way back into our home without showing any signs of healing.  He would say the words he knew we wanted to hear.  But his actions did not match his words.  And the people helping us strongly recommended I not let him back into the house without any change.  The abuse would have been worse and getting separated again would have been more difficult.

Anyway, back to the point.  In the 3-year separation (drawn out because of Covid closures and a nasty custody battle), he found a new church, wife, homes, cars, and job.  His life was entirely different the minute he was removed from our home.  He had been outed for some time and had not had his normal source of narcissistic supply (I was very good at supplying that as was our church back in the day because he was one of the prominent elders that everyone seemed to love and honor so much).

As soon as he left our home, he gathered new supply nearly instantly.  And because narcissists, especially older ones, have mastered the art of first impressions, charming words, and flattery, he had no problem appealing to people to suck them into his new life.

I still see evidence daily of his continued narcissism.  He still abuses us from afar.  And the few conversations I have had with his wife have indicated that she is seeing the behavior but has no clue that it is narcissism.  She excused with me every time we spoke.  I found it very interesting that she recognized the irregular behavior.  But I was kind of sad to hear her excuse it as unintentional or innocent behavior because I did the same for over 30 years.  These interactions make me wonder how long before she figures it out.  I know she has told one of my daughters that she should just love her dad and spend time with him regardless of what he has done to her (after she admitted she has no idea what caused my daughter’s c-PTSD).  If she had any idea what our family went through, she never would have married him.

A man in a suit standing in front of a huge ball and chain with his hand covering his face. This talks about the narcissist's attachment to lifelong shame in the article, "What Happens When a Narcissist Loses in Court."

A Narcissist Doesn’t Usually Lose Everything in Court

While a narcissist often loses enough in court to make him quite angry, he generally doesn’t lose everything.  In fact, narcissists can gain more than they would have had originally had they not fought in court.

Check out my article on whether a judge can see through a narcissist.

While I got sole physical custody of our youngest son (all 7 of the other kids refused to have anything to do with their dad and the court allowed that, my youngest tried to follow suit but the court didn’t allow him that luxury), we have joint legal custody and he has about 18 hours of visitation every month.  This was a great win for him because it is still disruptive in our lives to have to section off that time.

My son doesn’t enjoy the time with his dad but tries to keep a positive attitude.  And my ex loves it because it is disruptive with minimal commitment on his part, especially since he has never spent any significant time with any of his kids.  He usually spends about 12 of the 18 hours with his son.  This month was about 8 hours.

The joint legal custody isn’t too much of an issue right now because my ex doesn’t care enough to find out about his son’s life.  But if I were to pass away for any reason (not planning to in the immediate future, lol), he would get full custody of our son.  And that would be tragically bad for him.  Especially since the court was aware of the abuse.

Where my ex won big was in the financial settlement.  He always said he planned to work for a lower salary once he retired from the military and didn’t care about money.  I knew he would do that if he could.  So, when we divorced a year before his retirement, I expected he would under-employ because that’s what he always wanted to do and I wouldn’t be there to encourage him to do what he should.  He offered a flat-rate spousal support option, which I accepted because at least it was consistent money.  And honestly, I was exhausted from fighting the custody case, which was way more important to me.

As it turns out, because his new wife works full time, he had to save face and now works at the place he swore to me he never would because he was so tired of working in his industry.  He makes $250K+ a year.  And I am short about 40% of what the state of Virginia in America gives for support guidelines.  But I accepted the flat rate and he made it non-modifiable, which I also accepted, knowing that I would have at least some money for sure.

Yes, he outsmarted me.  But as a professing Christian, he has to answer to God someday for doing that not only to me, but to our children.  (We are sitting in an apartment still 3 years later while he is  living his best life, which everybody sees for exactly what it is.) And I know that he is not happy earning that money, but doing what he needs to in order to save face in his new life.

Our needs are met.  And I am building a career very late in life, but to find success after such a difficult life would be the icing on the cake for me.  God has truly blessed our family.  We are no longer walking on eggshells.  Our family has put the pieces back together and we are all doing much better now.

And now that he has his new life and new supply, life is seemingly good for him at the moment too.  Except for that ball and chain of shame getting bigger and bigger  that he still carries around.  And the fear that his new world may implode at any time just like his last one did.


How did things work out for you in court with your narcissist?  Since most courts work toward meeting in the middle regardless of abuse or other mitigating circumstances in divorce court, did you find that to be your case?  Did the lawyers/judge side more with you or with your narcissistic ex?  Did narcissistic issues come up in court?  I would love to hear your story and send you some words of encouragement and prayers if you are still in the midst of things.  Feel free to check out my article on the narcissist’s reaction to divorce.

I also have a free 57-page guide to divorcing a narcissist that you can get by clicking  here.  It will give you a checklist of all the things you need to do regardless of where you are in the process.  And it will encourage you to seek healthy ways to heal as you prepare to and begin to embark on your new life.

Blessings and hugs,

Here are some additional articles that may help you out as you continue to navigate through this very difficult process:

How to Safely Leave a Narcissist for Good

Do Narcissists Care if You Divorce Them?

Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years

Divorcing a Covert Narcissist:  What to Look Out For

Guarding Against the Narcissist’s Divorce Tactics

How a Narcissist Regrets Divorcing You

Are There Biblical Grounds for Divorcing a Narcissist?

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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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