Creating a Parenting Plan with a Narcissist

Family Lawyer in Scottsdale AZ

You have a child with a narcissist and now you need to create a parenting plan.  You can either agree to a parenting plan with the other parent or persuade the Judge that your parenting plan is best.  Your Judge does not know the particular issues between you and the narcissist parent but will likely consider a well-thought-out plan that outlines specific guidelines for areas that can create or be subject to high conflict.  Not every case involves a narcissist but Judges see high conflict cases every day.

Protecting your child from the high conflict situations created by the narcissist parent is important.  Creating a parenting plan with strong guidelines and boundaries is the best way to shield your child from those adult conflicts.

While you cannot foresee every “what if” situation, it is imperative that you have a solid parenting plan that outlines clear and unambiguous rules for you and the narcissist parent.  Parenting plans always include a regular, holiday and vacation schedule.  When you co-parent with a narcissist, your parenting plan should include specifics for the following items:

  1. Pick-up and drop-off locations and times; 
  2. Who may be present at the exchanges and how much notice needs to be given if it’s not the other parent;
  3. What happens if the other parent goes on vacation with the child; 
  4. Strong notice provisions concerning summer or other vacation plans, for non-parents picking up or dropping off the children, for out-of-state or out-of-country travel with the child, and for changes to the exchanges of the child including times and locations of the child; and
  5. Clear and specific guidelines for communications between the parents.

Specific Exchange Times and Locations 

Being late happens occasionally.  When the other parent is a narcissist, being late seems to happen every week.  You don’t want to be beholden to the narcissist’s timeline – it is simply another way that they are attempting to exercise control over you and the child.  Your pick-up and drop-off location default should be your child’s school or daycare.  One parent drops off in the morning and the other parent picks up in the afternoon on exchange days.  This schedule eliminates unnecessary contact and conflict with the narcissist.  It also documents when the other parent drops off or picks up your child from school or daycare because often the facility documents when children are late and daycares have parents sign in and out every child for their own records.  This also avoids your involvement in the other parent’s timeline and attempts to control by removing you from the equation – every daycare, school, and before/after-school program has set hours of operation that have to be followed.      

If school is out of session and/or the daycare is closed, you should have specific times outlined for exchanges in this situation and clear directives as to how to handle one parent’s failure to show up on time for the exchange, whether with notice or without.  For example, if the exchange is at 6 p.m. at a designated location, then your parenting plan should spell out a maximum time frame that the other parent has to wait (such as 20 minutes) before the late parent either forfeits their parenting time (if receiving the child or has to transport to the other parent’s home or even provide make-up time.  Clear standards and consequences will aid you in limiting any sort of “nonsense” by the narcissist parent in this respect.  

You should also try to designate any such direct exchanges be in a public place outside of each other’s homes.   This can be a convenience store parking lot or the local McDonalds or other high traffic area.  In a situation in which there is extremely high conflict, it could be the police substation in between where you and the other parent lives.  Co-parenting with a narcissist is high conflict.  If you and your child are going to be in a potential situation where there is going to be a conflict during exchanges, you should be in a high traffic, public forum to create the safest situation where there are plenty of witnesses and possibly video cameras.   If there is a conflict or the narcissist parent accuses you of an altercation, such witnesses and/or recordings from onsite video cameras can show the Judge that the narcissist has made a false allegation.  If a public place is not feasible, then the other alternative is to drop-off curbside at the parent’s house who is beginning parenting time – the parent dropping off stays in the car and the parent receiving the child stays within their doorway which limits any contact between you and lessens the chance for a conflict to occur.  This option should only be used if your child is old enough to walk on their own to the door. 

Who May be Present at the Exchanges

Outlining who may be present for exchanges is a must-have.  The narcissist will always have something come up that keeps him or her from being there personally for the exchanges.  Their “solution” is usually to have the newest person in their life pick-up or drop-off your child – a person you won’t really know because narcissists have short-lived friendships and relationships. You either can agree to having a known friend or family member as the alternate person or agree to the process for choosing to the alternate person.  If you don’t have a back-up plan for the exchange person specifically addressed in your parenting plan, you may be dropping off your child to a new person every other week.

What Happens if the Other Parent Goes on Vacation with the Child 

Narcissists don’t think the rules apply to them.  The Court will issue a final Order for a vacation schedule.  Your vacation schedule with a narcissist must have very specific instructions for what happens when one parent goes on vacation with the child.  A solid vacation schedule will include which parent’s vacation takes priority in odd and even years if you and the narcissist choose the same days and set deadlines several months in advance to put forth your dates so each of you can make plans and reservations accordingly.  Your parenting plan should also include when you have to provide the other parent with your itinerary, flight times and contact information.  You need to outline the communication schedule when your child is on vacation; maybe the regular schedule isn’t appropriate when you’re on vacation.  The communication schedule during vacations needs to be considered and outlined in your parenting plan.  


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Notice Provisions

Narcissists push boundaries and operate without limitations unless ones are put upon them.  Having strong notice provisions in your parenting plan are the key to maintaining some control over your life.  A strong notice provision includes the timeframe for giving notice and a penalty for not giving notice timely.  Notice provisions should be considered for all areas where you will have any type of personal interaction (either in person or in writing) with the narcissist and will include exchange locations and times, phone or Facetime calls with your child, and who is picking up or dropping off your child – basically all of the topics outlined in this blog.

Communication Guidelines

One of the best ways to make your life less complicated and chaos driven is to have strict rules regarding communication.  Most judges and attorneys recommend using email only for non-emergency communication.  Emailing parenting issues with a narcissist is a nightmare.  He or she will delete previous emails from the same chain, start wholly new chains regarding the same subject or respond to an old email in the same chain.  It can be hard to track the communication and can become complete chaos. 

To avoid the chaos, you should consider using a parent communication application.  It works similarly to sending emails, but shows when the narcissist viewed your message and most importantly the message cannot be altered once it is sent.  Your communication guidelines should also include a timeframe for responding and a consequence for not responding timely.  Knowing when the narcissist viewed your message and having a response deadline is required so that you can make important decisions on your own if the narcissist fails and/or refuses to participate in the decision. For example, you need to make a doctor’s appointment for your child but you and the narcissist have to work together to make the appointment.  You message the narcissist letting him or her know that an appointment needs to be made and provide 4-5 dates and times the doctor is available.  If you have a strong communication guideline in your parenting plan, the provision will state that the narcissist must respond within 24 or 48 hours otherwise you can move forward and schedule the appointment and just provide them notice of the same.


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Trusting your attorney and surrounding yourself with strong, loving individuals is the last barrier between you and the narcissist.  Our attorneys will help you create a parenting plan that will include specific provisions that will decrease the chaos and conflict in your life.  Contact Owens & Perkins today to discuss your current parenting plan and the specific areas of conflict you have with the narcissist.

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