Communicating with a Narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissistby Tina Swithin

I was recently asked to chime in on a Huffington Post article titled, “6 Ways to Maintain Your Sanity while Parenting with a Narcissist.” Maintaining your sanity while parenting, co-parenting or parallel parenting with someone who suffers from a Cluster B disorder is an experience that few can comprehend.

My submitted response was cut down significantly so I thought I’d share my two cents in full:

Taking control of communication while co-parenting (or parallel parenting) with a narcissist is absolutely critical to your emotional well-being. Since the narcissist is no longer able to control you in the relationship, they need to obtain their “narcissistic feed” in other ways. The desire for a narcissistic feed is similar to a drug addicts’ need for his or her next fix and their appetite can be insatiable. For the narcissist, keeping you engaged, whether good or bad, is their driving force.

Learning to communicate with a narcissist is just like learning another language. First, you will want to limit all non-emergency communication to emails and I often advise clients to create a separate email account for communication with the narcissist. Better yet, Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents are both programs designed specifically for couples in high-conflict custody battles or shared parenting situations. Narcissists are known for their lengthy emails and something as simple as a pair of mismatched socks on your toddler can open the door to a barrage of attacks about your parenting.

The first step is to decode the email which is generally chock-full of projection and just enough lies to make your head spin. Over time and as you take your power back, you will even find humor in decoding the narcissist’s emails. As a way to shed light on the painful verbal assaults that I would receive from my ex-husband, I invented the Narc Decoder which scrubs down the projection, lies, attacks and ulterior motives that are typically found in a narcissist’s email. Learning to understand the communication style of the narcissist is similar to learning a foreign language but once you understand it, you will experience greater peace and sometimes, even a good laugh.

Next, it is important to “gray rock” your communication style. Because the narcissist wants to evoke emotion (good or bad) from you, it will be imperative that you refrain from any and all emotion. The Gray Rock technique teaches us that communication should be short, monotonous, business-like and boring. When communicating with a narcissist, less is always more. Your goal is for the narcissist to begin looking elsewhere to receive their narcissistic feed. Sift through the email communication and only respond to the items that are relevant to co-parenting. If you must write a lengthy response, send it to your mother or best friend as a way to vent but do not send it to the narcissist. Do not engage your ex on the topic of your toddler’s mismatched socks. If there are untruthful attacks on your parenting that are more serious than mismatched socks, my favorite go-to response is simple but direct, “Your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted.” Co-parenting or parallel parenting with a narcissist can be emotionally exhausting which is why it is so important to implement strategies that allow you to take your power back.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

OMB Healthy Childrenby Rebecca Davis-Merritt

Remember your journey with the Cluster B in your life: the lies, manipulation, wooing, broken promises, his/her victim status but how at first you fell in love with the charisma and apparent ability to look into your soul. You may have thought s/he was your soul mate. Now your eyes and thoughts are unclouded. You see the Cluster B in a non-distorted way but your children are caught up in the Cluster B world during their parenting time. How do you help protect your children by teaching them to recognize manipulation, to set healthy boundaries, but not badmouth their other parent (recommended reading: Divorce Poison)? You have to arm your children to make it to adulthood relatively unscathed from their love for and contact with a Cluster B parent.

Ideally your children will have an excellent therapist who understands domestic violence (the emotional abuse and extreme need for power and control of a Cluster B is DV, although not all DV agencies understand this. See the Duluth Model of DV power wheel). Many DV agencies have support groups for children that teach them to recognize pathological need for power and control and how to protect themselves from abusers. Hopefully they have a very healthy other parent in you who understands the pathology of Cluster B, resists their efforts to antagonize, bait, and agitate you, is able to “grey rock it” by not showing emotion to Cluster B, communicating only via email or Our Family Wizard, Two House, Talking Parents, etc, and who teaches the children empathy in various ways. Start by reading aloud a Bucket Book (Amazon) to children 3-9. This costs around $10 and is a powerful tool for parents and children. The child learns about bucket fillers (kind people) and bucket dippers (angry,controlling, bullies). They learn the relationship between kindness and thoughtfulness and feeling safe and happy or the relationship between meanness and feeling unsafe and unhappy. Parents can help children understand how empathy is related to people choosing to respect others’ feelings and lack of empathy is not caring and often deliberately hurting others.

Many OMB parents teach their children that empathy is important by volunteer activities serving the vulnerable or by having zip lock packs of food, water, and grooming supplies in the car to give to homeless individuals. Even TV and movies can be a teaching tool. Frozen depicts a Cluster B who is charming, wooed his way into Anna’s heart  but turns out to be a lying scoundrel. This provides a good discussion about how first impressions do not matter as much as longterm behaviors and how we always need to date someone a long time observing them in many environments and situations before giving our heart to them. It can also lead to a discussion of the qualities important in a husband/father or wife/mother. Healthy parents have to seize every teachable moment to arm their children in a protective manner. They also have to learn how to deprogram their children without bad mouthing their other parent when the children return from parenting time in demoralized, angry, or confused states.

TV and movies have many examples of when a boundary set by a person is violated by another. Help your children recognize such boundary intrusions. The first step in children learning to set boundaries is the belief they have the right to safely do so. Safely means the boundary will be acknowledged and respected, not ignored, made fun of, etc. Children need much practice with their healthy parent in understanding everyone sets boundaries but not all people have the same types of boundaries. Eventually the child will understand boundaries, realize they have the right for appropriate boundaries to be respected. At this time they can then, especially if familiar with bucket book philosophy, learn that there are people who refuse to honor other people’s boundaries. They are bucket dippers and they intentionally violate others’ boundaries because it makes them feel powerful. They like to bully and boss others. At this point children learn the difference in trustworthy and untrustworthy people. Unfortunately for children with Cluster B parents, their parent is often the latter.

It is very scary for a child to set a healthy boundary with a Cluster B parent. It might be saying, “stop talking about mom/dad that way.” Setting the boundary will likely result in punishment and a Cluster B tantrum designed to bully the child into feeling sorry for or fearing the Cluster B. Yet it is important that the child feels empowered to set healthy boundaries and to do so when motivated. Otherwise the child grows up catering to pathology and avoiding confrontation often picking their own life partner to recreate such dynamics. It is also okay for children to know what boundary they wish to set but to acknowledge it would not be safe for them to do it with their Cluster B parent. This is not avoidance but self-protection. This information needs to be shared with therapist, GAL, etc. It is up to the healthy parent to give their children the cognitive tools  to understand empathy, lack of empathy, excessive need of power and control, manipulation (tv commercials are great examples), and boundaries. If you respect your child, allow appropriate boundaries, and model empathy and kindness you are cultivating the best environment for your children to flourish, withstand a Cluster B parent without developing pathological narcissistic, manipulative features themselves. Examine yourself. Have you done enough self improvement to be the kind of parent who can provide this environment for your child? If not find your own therapist, join your own DV support group, join an OMB state chapter and participate in meetings, check out OMB’s suggested reading list and start educating yourself more intensively.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

One Mom’s Battle Updates from Tina Swithin

One Mom’s Battle Updates from Tina Swithin

Thank_You_Beach_620by Tina Swithin

There are so many changes happening with One Mom’s Battle – this particular blog post is bittersweet as it marks the end of a journey that has been full of extreme highs and lows, happiness, sadness and finally, peace. I had no idea that starting this blog in 2011 would alter the course of my life. At the time, I was just one mom. When I started this blog, I felt incredibly alone — the blog became my confidant, my outlet and my dear friend during the darkest period of my life. There were times that I wrote things that I never published – my deepest fears and most personal thoughts were captured both publicly and privately. The One Mom’s Battle movement is gaining momentum and we are headed in a direction that exceeds anything I ever dreamt possible. For that reason, this will be my last personal blog.

One Mom’s Battle (OMB) is no longer about me. This movement is SO much bigger than me- thanks to all of you.

One Mom’s Battle recently turned into a non-profit organization with the potential to change lives, educate the masses and reach those who are feeling desperate and alone. Our main mission and driving force is to educate the Family Court System on Cluster B personality disorders so that no child experiences the heartache and abuse that my daughters endured…and that your children endure. It is my hope that no one ever feels alone in this battle and my heart swells with pride when I see the massive outreach taking place every day on the OMB Facebook page. Our Facebook pages are run by the most dedicated group of volunteers I have ever encountered. It’s a place of community and it’s a place of education.

A few weeks ago, we held our first OMB Board Meeting where I am volunteering as Board President. We’ve divided into a variety of sub-committees and we are going full steam ahead fueled by incredible amounts of passion and purpose. The Board Members are my family – strong, inspirational and driven to fight for Children’s Rights. We have an amazing board, a strong advisory committee and our Executive Director is one of the most inspirational warrior parents that I’ve ever encountered. The OMB Board of Directors is a true Dream Team. We look forward to updating you on “everything OMB” in the coming months.   Cheers to education and making changes – from my coffee cup to yours!

I sit here writing from my favorite little beach-side coffee shop in 88 degree California weather. I love coming here – it’s my secret spot where I rarely run into anyone that I know. I even have a favorite booth in the back corner where I can people-watch and reflect on past, present and future. Today I am reflecting on the many changes in my life over the past year – and the fact that the most prevalent feeling in my life is contentment. I am thankful to the Family Court System for finally “getting it.” I wish this feeling for everyone.

As I mentioned above, this will be my final personal blog. My battle is over. My case was won on the basis of emotional abuse – while this is rare, it gives me hope that others will follow in my footsteps. What is next for me?  As many of you know, I recently took a huge plunge and quit my career in Public Relations to dedicate myself to my new role as a Divorce Coach for survivors of Cluster B relationships and for those enduring high conflict custody battles. In addition, I am writing my third book and plan to facilitate annual retreats (the first one will be held November 6-8, 2015). If you’d like to follow my personal blog and stay informed on retreats or events that I am facilitating and new book releases, please visit me at www.tinaswithin.com and sign up (bottom right) for my monthly e-newsletter. To participate in my November retreat, please email me at tina@onemomsbattle.com.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you for cheering me on during my court battles. Thank you for your emails, text messages and snail mail. Thank you for believing in me when I was living on coffee, not sleeping and buried in piles of court documents. Thank you for sharing your stories and your heart with me over the past four years. Thank you for being a part of my journey.  Thank you!  – In love and deep gratitude, Tina Swithin

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

The Life That Awaits You – With Lundy Bancroft

The Life That Awaits You – With Lundy Bancroft

Lundy and Tina Swithinby Tina Swithin

Today, I am blogging from the friendly skies – on a flight from Connecticut to DC and then on to Phoenix with a final destination of San Luis Obispo, California. While it will be a long day (week!) of travel, it has been worth every moment as I am coming off of one of those “life-changing” experiences that I wish for everyone. I am thankful for today’s travel time and I plan to make the most of it by reflecting on and absorbing how much the past few days has enriched my life.

I grew up without my biological mother in my life. Her brief and sporadic appearances throughout my childhood never left warm and fuzzy feelings but instead left me feeling confused, scared and saddened. Most likely due to my own early experiences, my greatest fear in life was the mere thought of becoming a mother. That all changed (thankfully) at the age of 30 when I discovered that I was pregnant with my first child. For NM1my entire childhood, it was my dad and I. There were many periods of time when others became part of the picture like my early years when my grandmother and Aunt Bev helped to raise me (age 0-2 years) or when my father remarried (age 2- 9) and then the times when his girlfriends lived with us. Aside from the stable role that my Aunt has played in my life since day one, female relationships have not proven to be longstanding sources of strength or guidance for me. In fact, female relationships are something that often feels forced and unnatural to me which may explain why most of my very best friends have always been men.

Several years ago, I read Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” and that book showed me that my relationship with Seth was incredibly abusive despite the fact that my relationship lacked physical abuse which is the standard that society seems to cling to. After reading the book, I felt validated and clear. I felt as though Lundy had secretly crawled into my home, installed a hidden camera and then wrote about my life. I was riveted as Lundy broke down the different personality types of abusive men such as “Mr. Right” and “The Water Torturer.” I remember sending him an email to thank him for his work – I didNM2 not need a reply back…I simply wanted him to know that his words had an impact on my life and my path to healing.

Each year, Lundy holds a retreat and each year since reading his book, I have received notifications of the retreat. A variety of factors have prevented my attendance at the retreats in the past however, this year when the notification came through, I jumped at the opportunity and filled out the application at record speed. Because enrollment for the retreat was limited to 20 people and registration was done by mail, I drove my registration form straight to the post office. Then, I decided to bypass the anxiety that would normally come while waiting to be notified if I was “in” and I bought a plane ticket! Something just felt right about this and I knew that this was the year I needed to be at “The Life That Awaits You” retreat. (Thankfully, the notification came a few weeks later!)

As the calendar pages were flipped and the retreat was fast approaching, I began to panic a bit. I was so far along in my healing – was I going to take a spot that someone else really needed? What if I were the only one who had not endured physical abuse in past relationships? What if I didn’t fit in with the other women? Coming off a recent experience with a female friendship that completely knocked the wind out of me; you could say I was feeling anxious about being at a retreat so far away from home….with a bunch of women. Deep breath. It’s only 2 days I reminded myself repeatedly.

I arrived in Connecticut a day early and a group text message ensued between four of the women who were attending the retreat. After a series of text messages, I could tell that I was going to fit right in with this group. I met up with one of the attendees for a glass of wine the night before the retreat and felt even more at ease. The next day, I made the 90-minute commute to the retreat with four women who will now hold a place in my heart for life…and that was just the beginning of the weekend.

The retreat was held in Plainfield, Massachusetts – a gorgeous, snow-covered area which was quite a ways off the beaten path and the perfect spot for bonds to form and for broken hearts and tattered souls to heal. Everyone was there for the same reason regardless of the form of abuse they endured, duration of abuse or the severity of abuse. Everyone was united by an experience that only someone who has endured abuse can understand – there was power and comfort in knowing that everyone was there for the same reason. Within minutes of entering the retreat, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I express myself best by using words however; I am left with few words that could properly describe how healing and powerful this retreat was for me…and for the women who surrounded me. There was deep laughter and deep tears – all of the emotions, good and bad were healing in their own right. There were unbreakable bonds formed and lifelong memories made. For me, the realness and rawness of the experience was intense. Everyone showed up and was present in the moment. They were all open and willing. There was no judgment – only love. These women were inspiring regardless of where they were on their journey – from those who were just leaving an abusive relationship to those who had 10 years of healing under their belt. These women came together through unfortunate circumstances and supported each other 100%. They listened. They comforted. They all worked together to heal.

As we pulled away from the retreat and made our way to the airport, I noticed that it was International Women’s Day. I now understand the importance of bonding with incredible women and my life is so much richer for this experience. I came to the retreat to work through some lingering issues from the past and while my goal was accomplished, I left with so much more than I ever imagined. I am forever thankful to Lundy Bancroft for what he has done and what he continues to do in this world. I truly believe that he is an angel among us. While gratitude is a daily practice for me, the gratitude that I feel today is circulating through every cell in my body. Thank you, Lundy…for all you do.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

 

Peace, Divorce Coaching and OMB Non-Profit Updates

Peace, Divorce Coaching and OMB Non-Profit Updates
Cover

Our new logo (Photo by Sarah Lennox)

by Tina Swithin

My long overdue blog and updates.

Where to even begin?

I have peace.

I feel like peace is something that I’ve yearned for my entire life. It always seemed to be lingering just beyond my reach. I could see it and was able to grab a piece of it once in a while…. but it always seemed to slip from my fingers as soon as I tried to hold on to it. My childhood was enough to make most Child Psychologists cringe and then there was my adult years….a series of horrible relationships and then….Hurricane Seth.

Fast forward to today: I have a husband who loves me – I feel that love….it is more than just empty words. I wake up in the morning and I feel content. I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. My daughters are happy. They are safe. They also have peace. I even have the white picket fence around my house. I didn’t plan for a white picket fence life….but I am happy to have it. I like the way peace feels in the deepest parts of my soul.

We haven’t heard from Seth since last October when the court ruled that he can no longer have contact with the girls. Seth who? Enough about that guy. We did hear from “that guy’s” mom, Cleo….apparently, she is moving back to the United States after spending about 15 years teaching overseas in Saudi Arabia. She notified the girls that she is moving back via a Christmas card. Joy to the world…not.  I have had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The thought of Grandparent’s Rights has always weighed heavily on my mind however, my mind is at ease after speaking to several attorneys.  Let’s just say that chances of hell freezing over and pigs growing unicorn horns are more concerning than my local court awarding Cleo time with the girls.

My wish for 2015 is that each and every one of you have peace waiting just around the corner. I want to share this feeling with every person who has been bruised, beaten and broken by the Family Court System.

High Conflict Divorce Coach:

Two weeks ago, I took a leap of faith. I quit my super stable career in Public Relations. We all hear the phrase, “Find a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life” but that sounded like pipe dream fluff to me. Now I get it. Six months ago, I launched my new business as a Divorce Coach and I have officially found my calling. Last week, I asked clients for testimonials and the response I received was humbling…and further confirmed that my leap of faith doesn’t require a back-up plan. I am doing exactly what I was called to do.  Here is a quote from one of my regular clients:

“Tina has been an essential part of my journey. There was a time when I was so alone in the custody battle; a time when I felt utterly confused, afraid, and overwhelmed by lawyers, court dates, and a punitive, unreasonable, terrifying ex husband who had this knack of pulling it together in front of other people. I searched for ways to cope, to understand, and to find a way through but was stunned by the lack of resources…until I found Tina. And then everything started to change. Tina’s role as a coach has literally changed my life and the course of my journey through this process. Over the past 8 months, she has helped me strategize, think through complicated legal situations and proposals, set boundaries, draft more effective emails, and better understand both the legal and psychological issues I was facing. She is prepared, focused, and full of insight and ideas. Most importantly, she helped me reconnect with myself and to not let fear take me away from what I knew to be true and right. Our sessions have made me stronger, hopeful, and certainly wiser. I am beyond grateful to Tina. She has been invaluable to me and I can’t imagine going through this without her!”

Yesterday, I was walking on the beach and catching up with an old friend. As I was explaining to her what I was doing, she said, “You are like a doula. A divorce doula!”  — it made me laugh but it is so true. According to DONA International, “Doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘a woman who serves’ and is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth.” I remember hiring a Doula for the birth of my first daughter, Piper, and I was so incredibly thankful I did. She was there for me every step of the way. Being a “divorce doula” is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Please come over and “like” my personal Facebook page where I share inspiration and positive quotes.

One Mom’s Battle- a Non-Profit:

Aside from Divorce Coaching, my free time will be spent volunteering as President of the non-profit organization, “One Mom’s Battle.” We just completed the 501(c)3 paperwork and are well on our way towards tax-exempt status!  Our first board meeting will be held this month. We have such an amazing team lined up….OMB has a new logo which we are so thrilled about (thank you, Larissa!).   As they say, it takes a village!

In other exciting news, a new OMB website is underway thanks to the dedication of the amazing Valerie. SO many positive things happening – we look forward to all that 2015 has to offer! Cheers to providing support for survivors while educating the Family Court System! Cheers to making CHANGES!  I have personally seen it here in my local court system – I look forward to seeing change happen across the world.

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The Lemonade Club: Currently, The Lemonade Club is not accepting new applicants. The forum is being moved and improved.  For more information and to be added to the waiting list, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com

Divorce Coaching: Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries, navigate the system and regain your power. Email Tina Swithin for an intake packet: tina@onemomsbattle.com. Follow Tina’s personal Facebook page for daily inspiration.

Books: Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.

“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

 

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s Court Transcripts

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s Court Transcripts

judge-in-courtby Tina Swithin

October 28, 2014 was one of the best days of my life.  It was the day that we were awarded “peace” after a very long custody battle. I have been anxiously awaiting the transcripts because this 30 minutes of my life was a complete blur. Tonight, I received the transcripts and while they aren’t exact (I remember a direct quote from the Commissioner, “Parents have rights but children also have rights” which didn’t make it into the transcripts).  Other than that, this is pretty much word for word what occurred.

I have changed names to protect identities:

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA COUNTY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO BEFORE THE HONORABLE JOHN J. OLSON, COMMISSIONER

SETH COLLINS, PETITIONER, VS. TINA SWITHIN, RESPONDENT.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014 8:56 A.M. * * *

THE COURT: LET ME CALL CASE FL-09-0000, SETH COLLINS AND TINA SWITHIN. WE ARE HERE ON MR. COLLINS’– I’M SORRY, I GUESS WE ARE HERE ON MS. SWITHIN’S REQUEST FOR ORDERS.

MR. PETERSON: YES.

MR. SLAROMON: VINNIE SLAROMON ON BEHALF OF SETH COLLINS, WHO IS NOT PRESENT.

THE COURT: MS. SWITHIN IS PRESENT. MR. PETERSON IS PRESENT ON BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN. MR. COLLINS DOESN’T VISIT FOR A YEAR AND A HALF, AND NOW HE’S DEMANDING VISITS. IS THAT THE SCENARIO?

MR. SLAROMON: I DON’T THINK THAT’S EXACTLY HOW IT HAPPENED, YOUR HONOR. WHAT I THINK HAPPENED IS THAT HE STARTED HIS VISITS AFTER A LONG ABSENCE, AND IT WAS A SUGGESTION OF MS. SMITH TO INCREASE THE TIME TO TWO HOURS. AND THEN I READ THE RESPONSE AND THE OTHER RESPONSES, AND I’M GUESSING THEY ARE SUGGESTING THAT HE HAVE AN HOUR FIXED, SUPERVISED, AND THAT YOU COULD INCREASE UP TO TWO HOURS BASED ON THE CHILDREN AND HOW THEY ARE DOING IN THE SESSIONS.

THE COURT: WHERE DOES HE LIVE?

MR. SLAROMON: SAN DIEGO.

THE COURT: MR. PETERSON, WHAT’S YOUR POSITION?

MR. PETERSON: WELL, I GOT SOME NEW INFORMATION TODAY. I FILED A RESPONSIVE DECLARATION, AND IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING MR. COLLINS HAS NOT VISITED IN 16 MONTHS. HE HAD SOME LIMITED TELEPHONE CALLS, AND IN HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHILDREN I THINK THERE IS WHAT WOULD BE CHARACTERIZED AS A GROWING RIFT BASED UPON HIS NON-CONTACT, AND I BELIEVE HE’S HAD TWO VISITS.

MS. SWITHIN: ONE.

MR. PETERSON: ONE VISIT SUPERVISED BY AMBER SMITH. AND IN MY RESPONSIVE DECLARATION WHEN I MADE A PROPOSAL TO THE COURT ABOUT A CAUTIOUS REIMPLEMENTATION OF VISITS, I RECOMMENDED THAT BASED UPON MY DISCUSSIONS WITH MEGAN GOLDEN, WHO IS THE CHILDREN’S THERAPIST, THAT MR. COLLINS MAY CONTACT HER AND MEET WITH HER IN ORDER THAT HE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO UNDERSTAND THE CHILDREN’S DISTRESS AND GAIN SOME INSIGHT INTO MAKING PROGRESS WITH HIS RELATIONSHIP. HE NEVER CONTACTED THE CHILDREN’S THERAPIST. I SPOKE TO THE THERAPIST, AND SHE INDICATED TO ME THAT SHE’S BEEN SEEING THEM ONCE A WEEK FOR ALMOST A YEAR.

THE COURT: CAN YOU REMIND ME HOW OLD ARE THE GIRLS?

MR. PETERSON: PIPER IS NINE AND SARAH IS SEVEN. MS. GOLDEN HAD A 45-MINUTE MEETING WITH EACH CHILD LAST NIGHT, AND SHE SAID THAT SARAH USED THE BATHROOM BEFOREHAND, BUT WHEN THEY STARTED TALKING ABOUT THE VISITS, SHE BECOME ANXIOUS AND DISTRESSED AND TRIED TO MAKE IT TO THE BATHROOM, BUT SHE ENDED UP WETTING HER PANTS ON THE WAY TO THE BATHROOM, AND SARAH EXHIBITED SOME ANXIOUS AND FEARFUL BEHAVIOR AT THE TIME THAT SHE WAS DEPARTING THE BATHROOM. THIS WAS ALL CENTERED AROUND CONVERSATIONS THEY WERE HAVING ABOUT HOW THEY WERE GOING TO IMPLEMENT THIS AND HOW THEY WERE GOING TO SEE THEIR DAD, HOW THEY FELT ABOUT IT, HOW THE TELEPHONE CALLS WERE GOING. I ASKED HER WHAT SHE RECOMMENDED, AND BASED UPON LAST NIGHT SHE THINKS THAT BEFORE ANY EFFORTS ARE MADE TO RESUME THE VISITS BETWEEN THE GIRLS, MR. COLLINS NEEDS TO MEET WITH HER, AND THERE NEEDS TO BE –

THE COURT: MEET WITH HER TO DO WHAT?

MR. PETERSON: SO HE UNDERSTANDS THE NEEDS OF THE CHILDREN.

THE COURT: HE HASN’T UNDERSTOOD THE NEEDS OF THE CHILDREN IN FOUR YEARS.

MR. PETERSON: I AGREE WITH THAT. I THINK THAT’S TRUE. THE FACT IS HE DISAPPEARS FOR 16 MONTHS, AND NOW HIS REAPPEARING IS CAUSING STRESS IN THE CHILDREN’S LIVES THE WAY — I GUESS THE WAY IN WHICH HE’S REENTERING THEIR LIVES. SHE SAID HE SHOULD BE LIMITED TO CALLS AND SENDING THEM LETTERS, AND SHE’S NOT COMFORTABLE TRANSITIONING INTO VISITS, EVEN SUPERVISED, UNTIL THE CHILDREN HAVE A RESUMPTION OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR FATHER. IF YOU READ THE REPLY DECLARATION OF MS. SWITHIN AND LOOK AT THE EMAILS AND TEXTS THAT ARE BACK AND FORTH, I THINK MS. SWITHIN HAS MADE A PRETTY SUBSTANTIAL AND SIGNIFICANT EFFORT TO CONNECT WITH HIM TO TRY AND PERSUADE HIM TO SEE THE KIDS, AND ON MANY OCCASIONS HE DOESN’T RESPOND IN AN APPROPRIATE FASHION AND CONTINUES TO BLAME HER AND MISCHARACTERIZES THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND DOESN’T TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY.

THE COURT: I GUESS THAT’S WHY I’M SORT OF WONDERING WHY WE ARE GOING TO FORCE THE KIDS INTO A RELATIONSHIP WITH A GUY WHO HAS DEMONSTRATED REPEATEDLY HE’S NOT CAPABLE OF PUTTING THE KIDS’ INTERESTS AHEAD OF HIS OWN. EVERYTHING IS ON HIS TIMETABLE. HE’S FLAT-OUT LIED TO THE COURT ABOUT VARIOUS FACTS. WE ALL REMEMBER THE HISTORY HERE. HE APPEARS TO BE A SOCIOPATH. WHY ARE WE FORCING THEM? CHILDREN WHO WET THEIR PANTS AT THE MERE DISCUSSION OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SEEING MR. COLLINS, WHY ARE WE FORCING THEM TO DO THAT? IT IS PRETTY DRASTIC TO SAY MAYBE THE KIDS NEVER SEE THIS GUY AGAIN, BUT, YOU KNOW, HE’S THE PERSON WHO CHOSE TO BE GONE FOR THE LAST 16 MONTHS. MAYBE I SHOULD ASK MR. SLAROMON.

MR. SLAROMON: I JUST THINK IN EVERY FAMILY LAW SITUATION THERE ARE FATHERS AND MOTHERS THAT HAVE PROBLEMS MUCH WORSE THAN WHAT MR. COLLINS DOES, AND HIS HAVE BEEN CHARACTERIZED AS JUST A LOT OF, AS THE COURT POINTED OUT, ACTIONS THAT WERE UNACCEPTABLE. THAT’S WHY HE’S IN THE POSITION HE’S IN.

THE COURT: NOT REALLY. HE’S IN THE POSITION HE’S IN BECAUSE HE DID A LOT OF THINGS THAT ENDED UP WITH HIM BEING LIMITED TO SUPERVISED VISITS. BUT HE’S THE PERSON WHOSE CHOSE NOT TO SEE HIS KIDS FOR 16 MONTHS.

MR. SLAROMON: THAT’S WHY HE ASKED ME TO COME AND WHY WE FILED THE RESPONSE, BECAUSE HE JUST WANTED SOME OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE TO REUNIFY WITH THEM UNDER SOME STRUCTURE. AND I THINK TERMINATING HIS PARENTAL VISITATION ISN’T APPROPRIATE IF WE CAN COME UP WITH A WAY WE CAN GRADUALLY GET BACK INTO THE KIDS’ LIVES. THAT’S OUR GOAL.

THE COURT: HOW DO YOU PROPOSE DOING THAT?

MR. SLAROMON: WELL, I THOUGHT THAT STARTING WITH SUPERVISED VISITATION AND SEEING HOW IT GOES WOULD BE A GOOD FIRST STEP, INTERTWINED WITH THE THERAPEUTIC APPROACH THAT MR. PETERSON WAS SAYING. I THINK MR. COLLINS DOES NEED TO ENGAGE SLOWLY AND SHOW GOOD CONDUCT OVER A PERIOD OF TIME AND MAYBE SET A REVIEW HEARING 7AND HAVE THEM HAVE, YOU KNOW, ONE VISIT EVERY WEEK FOR AN HOUR, AND LET’S SEE HOW HE DOES. AND I UNDERSTAND THAT THE KIDS — ACCORDING TO MS. SMITH SHE SAID THAT THE KIDS SAID THAT THEY WANT TO SEE HIM AND THAT SHE THINKS IT WOULD BE GOOD FOR THEM, SO MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE HER COME IN AND TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW –

THE COURT: WHAT’S THEIR OWN THERAPIST’S OPINION ABOUT THE KIDS SEEING HIM? THE KIDS SEE THEIR OWN THERAPIST, AND MS. SMITH IS THE SUPERVISION THERAPIST.

MS. SLAROMON: YES, SHE’S THE SUPERVISOR THERAPIST.

MR. PETERSON: SHE’S ONLY MET WITH THEM FOR ONE HOUR, AND THAT’S IN 16 MONTHS.

THE COURT: WHAT DO YOU THINK OUGHT TO HAPPEN?

MS. SWITHIN: THE PAST 15 MONTHS HAVE BEEN THE MOST PEACEFUL FOR MY CHILDREN. THEY HAVE RETURNED TO HAVING A CHILDHOOD WITH ZERO STRESS. THEY ARE 100 PERCENT THRIVING IN EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR LIVES. MR. COLLINS’S PHONE CALLS TO THEM INVOLVE INSTRUCTING ME THAT I NEED TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT CHILD SUPPORT AND HOW HE HAS PUT A ROOF OVER THEIR HEAD – THE CALLS ARE INAPPROPRIATE. IN SOME OF HIS PHONE CALLS TO THEM, HE’S CLEARLY INTOXICATED, CALLING FROM BARS, AND THE GIRLS HAVE REFUSED TO TALK TO HIM SINCE APRIL BECAUSE OF HOW BIZARRE HIS PHONE CALLS ARE. THEY ARE IN CONTROL OF THEIR PHONE AT ALL TIMES. IN THE ONE SINGLE HOUR THAT HE HAS COME BACK INTO THEIR LIVES – HE HAS TURNED OUR WORLD UPDSIDE DOWN. MY OLDEST DAUGHTER, WHO HAS A NEAR PERFECT ATTENDANCE RECORD THROUGH FOURTH GRADE, HAS MISSED SCHOOL DUE TO ANXIETY SURROUNDING THE VISITS. MY YOUNGEST DAUGHTER HAS NOW STARTED WETTING HER PANTS AGAIN AT 7 1/2 YEARS OLD AFTER NOT HAVING A SINGLE ACCIDENT FOR 15 MONTHS. DURING HIS ONE-HOUR VISIT HE BROUGHT IN A LAPTOP COMPUTER AND GRILLED THEM ON QUESTIONS THAT WERE INAPPROPRIATE. HE TOLD THEM THAT THE LACK OF VISITS WERE NOT HIS FAULT. MS. SMITH HAD TO STOP HIM AND TELL HIM THAT THE TOPIC WAS INAPPROPRIATE. THIS MAY BE HEARSAY, BUT MR. PETERSON CAN PROBABLY VERIFY IT. THIS HAS BEEN TRAUMATIZING FOR THEM. JUST ONE HOUR AND MY DAUGHTER’S NIGHTMARES HAVE RESTARTED. WE ARE BACK WHERE WE WERE 15 MONTHS AGO, AND I DON’T THINK HIS PRESENCE IN THEIR LIFE IS HELPING THEM AT ALL -OR IS IN THEIR BEST INTEREST. AND WITH THE RECENT POLICE REPORT THAT I INCLUDED IN MY DECLARATION- MR. COLLINS ATTACKED HIS FIFTH VICTIM AND THAT INCIDENT OCCURED DURING THE TIME OF THE 3111 EVALUATION WHEN MR. COLLINS WOULD SEEM TO BE ON HIS BEST BEHAVIOR. BUT I AGREE WITH YOU THAT HIS TENDENCIES LEAN TOWARDS THAT OF A SOCIOPATH. HE TERRIFIES ME AND HE TERRIFIES THE CHILDREN. I WOULD ASK THAT THE COURT COMPLETELY REMOVE HIS VISITS. I DON’T THINK VISITS ARE IN THEIR BEST INTEREST.

THE COURT: MR. PETERSON, ANYTHING ELSE?

MR. PETERSON: JUST — NO. I THINK TALK IS CHEAP, BUT I THINK CONDUCT SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS. MR. COLLINS’S CONDUCT DEMONSTRATES THAT IT IS ALL ABOUT HIM, AND HE DOESN’T APPRECIATE THE NEEDS OF THE CHILDREN, AND FOR HIM TO, I GUESS, REENTER THE CHILDREN’S LIVES IN THE MANNER IN WHICH HE HAS CAUSES MORE DISRUPTION. CERTAINLY I ENCOURAGE AND ADVOCATE THAT CHILDREN NEED BOTH PARENTS, BUT THAT BEING SAID, I THINK THAT BOTH PARENTS HAVE TO HAVE AN APPROPRIATE ROLE IN THE CHILDREN’S LIVES, AND STEPPING OUT FOR 16 MONTHS AND THEN REAPPEARING -AND I DO CORROBORATE THAT I SPOKE TO AMBER SMITH, AND HE STARTED OUT HIS VISIT BY ATTEMPTING TO SAY THAT NONE OF THIS WAS ALL HIS FAULT, AND IF IT’S NOT HIS FAULT, WHY HASN’T HE BEEN VISITING, AND I KNOW THAT’S NOT TRUE, FOR ONE, AND I THINK IT MISLEADS THE CHILDREN AND CAUSES THE CHILDREN MORE DISTRESS RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHILDREN. WHAT I TOLD THE COURT IS WHAT MS. GOLDEN RECOMMENDS, AND WHATEVER THE PARENTING PLAN OR PROPOSAL THE COURT PROPOSES OR ORDERS, I THINK IT OUGHT TO BE VERY SLOW, AND I THINK IT OUGHT TO BE AIMED AT PROTECTING THE CHILDREN FROM MR. COLLINS’S UNSTABLE BEHAVIOR. I GUESS I’M CONCERNED — ALSO I TRIED TO CALL (GAZELLE #3). HER PHONE NUMBER IS IN THE POLICE REPORT. I THINK IT IS OUT OF THE EAST COAST. I TRIED TO IDENTIFY MYSELF, AND I CALLED HER A COUPLE TIMES AND TRIED TO GET A CALL BACK SO I COULD CORROBORATE WHAT’S WRITTEN IN THE POLICE REPORT. I FIND ALARMING WHAT IS IN THAT POLICE REPORT. THERE’S BEEN SIMILAR BEHAVIOR WITH OTHER WOMEN THAT’S BEEN REPORTED THROUGHOUT THIS CASE OVER ABOUT FIVE YEARS, AND IT IS JUST ODD THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS WITH MR. COLLINS, AND I THINK HE HAS SOME SORT OF PROBLEM.

THE COURT: I DON’T THINK ITS ODD. I THINK YOU COULD GO WANDER AROUND TO ANY CRIMINAL DEPARTMENT IN THIS BUILDING AND SEE SIMILAR KINDS OF PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR.

MR. PETERSON: THE OTHER ISSUE IS HE’S WRITTEN TO THE MOTHER AND REALLY MINIMIZED HIS USE OF ALCOHOL, HE NEVER ABUSED ALCOHOL. EVERYTHING THAT HE SAYS HE MINIMIZES IT AND SAYS THAT HE NEVER USES ALCOHOL IN ANY DIFFERENT PATTERN THAN ANY PROFESSIONAL OR PARENT. I JUST DON’T THINK THE RECORD SUPPORTS THAT. I THINK WITH HIS CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST HIM AND HIS ALCOHOL-RELATED OFFENSES IT’S JUST ALL AROUND A BAD CIRCUMSTANCE.

THE COURT: OKAY. SO I’M GOING TO GIVE MR. SLAROMON THE LAST WORD, BUT BEFORE I GET TO HIM, THE DILEMMA FOR THE COURT IS ON THE ONE HAND THERE’S A POLICY THAT KIDS NEED BOTH PARENTS. ON THE OTHER HAND THERE ARE CERTAIN PARENTS WHO DON’T BELONG AROUND THEIR CHILDREN. WHERE IS HE?

MR. PETERSON: WELL, I THINK THE COURT’S GOT TO BALANCE COMPETING INTERESTS.

THE COURT: ACTUALLY, RATHER THAN PHRASING IT AS “WHERE IS HE,” WHERE DO THESE KIDS BELONG?

MR. PETERSON: I THINK THE COURT’S GOT TO BALANCE THE KIDS’ STABILITY AGAINST ANY FURTHER INSTABILITY OR HARM THAT THERE IS BY THE CIRCUMSTANCE OF CONTINUING WHAT’S CURRENTLY GOING ON. I MEAN, HAS HE INFLICTED PHYSICAL FORCE ON THE CHILDREN? NOT RECENTLY.

THE COURT: BUT THAT’S NOT THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL.

MR. PETERSON: I UNDERSTAND THAT. THESE CHILDREN ARE EXPERIENCING EMOTIONAL DISTRESS AS A RESULT OF WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE LAST TWO OR THREE MONTHS, AND I THINK THE COURT OUGHT TO RESTRICT HIS CONTACT WITH THE CHILDREN UNTIL HE IS ABLE TO DEMONSTRATE –

THE COURT: I GUESS THAT’S MY QUESTION BECAUSE TO DATE HE HAS CHECKED OUT. HE HAS REALLY PUT HIS KIDS IN A HORRIBLE POSITION. I THINK PROBABLY MR. SLAROMON MIGHT AGREE WITH THAT. THE QUESTION REALLY IS, WELL — AND BASED ON ALL OF THAT, I’M NOT CONVINCED HE SHOULD BE SEEING HIS KIDS EVEN ONE HOUR SUPERVISED AT THIS POINT. WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO DO TO DEMONSTRATE THAT HE’S NOT A DANGER NOW TO HIS KIDS? AND NOW IT IS GOING TO BE VERY DIFFICULT FOR HIM BECAUSE I’VE CONCLUDED HE’S A LIAR. I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT HE SAYS. IT HAS GONE ON FOR YEARS. HE’S GOT THIS ISSUE WITH HIS VARIOUS GIRLFRIENDS, ALL OF WHOM SEEM TO END UP IN SOME SORT OF POLICE CONTACT. HE HAS FABRICATED CLAIMS ABOUT GETTING BEAT UP IN SAN FRANCISCO WHEN ACTUALLY HE PUT HIS CAR INTO A LIGHT POLE ON THE EMBARCADERO. WHAT COULD HE DO TO CONVINCE YOU OR CONVINCE ME HE IS NOT JUST A SOCIOPATH AND SHOULDN’T BE AROUND HIS KIDS? IS THERE ANYTHING HE COULD DO?

MR. PETERSON: NOT MUCH. THE ONLY SUGGESTION THAT I KNOW OF IS TO START OFF WITH A SERIES OF LETTERS AND HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE CONTACT WITH THEM THAT WAY, BUT MY THINKING IS IF THE COURT MAKES AN ORDER LIKE THAT, HE WON’T FOLLOW IT AND CHECK OUT. IT IS A VERY, VERY TOUGH ISSUE. I THINK HE’S RECEIVED PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES FROM THIS COURT, PROBABLY SIX OR SEVEN OPPORTUNITIES TO HAVE A NORMAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS CHILDREN, AND HE’S REJECTED THEM OR ACTED IN A FASHION THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH APPROPRIATE PARENTING DECISIONS.

MS. SWITHIN: IN REGARDS TO THE LETTERS, I WANT THE COURT TO KNOW THAT I WOULD ONLY FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THOSE GOING THROUGH THE CHILDREN’S THERAPIST BECAUSE HIS PHONE CALLS ARE COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE. MY HUSBAND CAN ATTEST TO THAT. HE’S IN THE COURTROOM NOW. HE HAS HEARD THEM ON SPEAKER PHONE. I DON’T TRUST ANYTHING THAT HE WOULD PUT IN WRITING WOULDN’T FURTHER DAMAGE THE GIRLS.

THE COURT: MR. SLAROMON?

MR. SLAROMON: I’M HEARING A LOT OF THE THINGS WE HAVE HEARD OVER AND OVER AGAIN THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE CASE, AND THE CONFLICT IS RESULTANT. MR. COLLINS SEEMS TO DO THE OBVIOUS THINGS WRONG, BUT I THINK A LOT OF THE EARLY CONFLICT COMES FROM THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MS. SWITHIN AND MR. COLLINS. I HAVE HEARD LOTS OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT HER USING HER DIVORCE AS FODDER FOR HER PROFESSION AND A BOOK. NOW SHE’S WRITTEN A SECOND BOOK. SHE’S VERY INTO PUBLICIZING THIS.

THE COURT: I HAVEN’T READ HER BOOK. I KNOW SHE HAS ONE. I KNOW SHE HAS A BOOK. I DON’T HAVE ANY INTEREST IN READING IT, BUT MR. COLLINS PROVIDES A LOT OF MATERIAL.

MS. SLAROMON: I JUST THINK THAT IF WE CLOSE THE DOOR TO IT, THERE’S NO OPPORTUNITY. IF WE GIVE HIM SOME OPPORTUNITY BUT LETTER WRITING IS THE THING THAT YOU THINK IS THE BEST SOLUTION, I DON’T NECESSARILY THINK THAT’S THE BEST SOLUTION. I THINK HE NEEDS TO HAVE SOME CONTACT WITH THE THERAPIST THAT ALSO SEES THE KIDS, AND MAYBE HE COULD HAVE HIS OPEN SEPARATE THERAPY FOR X-AMOUNT OF SESSIONS, MAKE HIM DO SOME REAL ENGAGING THERAPY WITH THEIR THERAPIST FOR SOME WAY THAT SHE CAN MONITOR WHAT HE’S SAYING AND WHAT HE’S DOING, AND THEN COME BACK IN THREE MONTHS AND HAVE THE THERAPIST SAY “HE’S A SOCIOPATH” OR “HE’S NOT A SOCIOPATH, HE WANTS TO, HE CAN, I BELIEVE HE SHOULD.” HE HAS DEFINITELY CHOSEN OVER THE LAST 15 MONTHS TO OSTRICH IT, STICK HIS HEAD IN THE SAND AND NOT DO THE VISITATIONS BECAUSE HE WAS ORDERED SUPERVISED. I TOLD HIM MYSELF TO DO HIS VISITS, DO THEM FROM THE BEGINNING AND DO THEM GOOD, AND HE DIDN’T. I ASKED HIM TO DO THAT. I MEAN, I THINK THAT I JUST WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE COURT TRY TO FASHION A PLAN THAT CAN GIVE HIM A WINDOW, AN OPPORTUNITY THAT CAN EITHER CLOSE AGAIN AND FAIL OR SUCCEED, WHICH MIGHT BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE KIDS IN THE FUTURE.

THE COURT: ALL VISITATION BETWEEN MR. COLLINS AND THE CHILDREN IS SUSPENDED. MR. COLLINS MAY COMMUNICATE WITH THE CHILDREN IN WRITING THROUGH MEGAN GOLDEN. ALL TELEPHONE CONTACT BETWEEN MR. COLLINS AND THE CHILDREN IS TERMINATED AT THIS TIME. IF MS. SWITHIN DOES RECEIVE ANY TELEPHONE CALLS TO THE CHILDREN DESPITE THIS ORDER, WHICH WOULDN’T SURPRISE ME, SHE CAN RECORD THEM. ARE THERE ANY OTHER ORDERS YOU THINK WE NEED?

MR. PETERSON: NO.

THE COURT: OKAY.

MR. PETERSON WILL PREPARE THE ORDER.

MR. SLAROMON: THANK YOU.

MS. SWITHIN: THANK YOU, YOUR HONOR.

THE COURT: THANK YOU.

(AT 9:18 A.M. PROCEEDINING WERE CONCLUDED.) * * *

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking a Private Forum for advice, inspiration and support? Join Tina and the Lemonade Warriors in The Lemonade Club! For more information, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com

Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries, navigate the system and regain your power. Contact Tina Swithin at Tina Swithin, LLC

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.

Divorcing a Narcissist: Peace is the Calm in your Heart

Divorcing a Narcissist: Peace is the Calm in your Heart

peaceby Tina Swithin

As we are all painfully aware, the Narcissist loves to steal the very things that they are incapable of having in their own lives.

In the beginning, they were attracted to us for the qualities they lack: honesty, integrity, kindness, empathy, etc. As the relationship progressed, they slowly chip away at our identities until we are left questioning everything about ourselves and life in general. Once the relationship is over, their mission becomes focused on robbing us of peace and love.

I came across this quote a few days ago and it really hit home for me. “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.” – Unknown

Despite the chaos brewing around you, I hope that you can go to that quite place in your heart and cherish your own peace. This is the peace that no one can take from you. Some may have to search deeper than others but it is there. I promise.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking a Private Forum for advice, inspiration and support? Join Tina and the Lemonade Warriors in The Lemonade Club! For more information, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com

Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries, navigate the system and regain your power. Contact Tina Swithin at Tina Swithin, LLC

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.

Divorcing a Narcissist: How to Survive

Divorcing a Narcissist: How to Survive

flickering lightby Tina Swithin

This year marks my first drama-free, narcissist-free Christmas (happy dance!) since my divorce began in 2009. Six Christmas’ in a row that were controlled by Seth in various ways: money (lack of support), demands (changes to the schedules, pick up times, drop off times, etc), control (bizarre phone calls, manipulative emails, etc). I remember the Christmas of 2009 when I discovered (days before Christmas) that Seth never paid the girl’s preschool tuition as he claimed. I had two weeks over Christmas break to: a) come up with $3,000 or b) find a new preschool. I didn’t have $300 to my name so I began scrambling to find a more affordable preschool so that I could keep my job.

I recently read a comment on a Facebook page that described me as someone who had not healed and someone who was holding on to the past. There is nothing further from the truth. I have healed. I don’t hold onto the past. I reflect on the past when I am trying to empathize with those who are still on the battlefield. Everyday I receive emails that break my heart. Everyday I am reminded how lucky I am to have made it to the other side of this nightmare. Everyday I am humbled when I hear someone say that my story gives them hope….my story inspires them to keep fighting.

This blog and movement has zero to do with Seth. This was never about him. This is not about my inability to move forward…I have done that. This blog is my way of saying, “Hey – I get it. I’ve been there. It is hell BUT you can do it. Don’t give up….you never know what tomorrow holds.” I am living proof of that.

People often ask how I survived this battle. There were a few things that stand out to me:

  • Gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for. Always. Gratitude has never failed me and the simple practice of gratitude carried me through the darkest times and changed my life.
  • Persistence. I refused to give up. I refused to settle. I often hear that the biggest regret people have (in this battle) is settling when they knew in their heart that they shouldn’t. It’s not an easy battle but I needed to go to sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power to protect my children. The courts may not protect your babies this month or next month….never give up. Keep documenting. Keep the battle gear on.
  • Love. Treat yourself kindly. Don’t beat yourself up. There isn’t a manual for this battle. We all make mistakes. You are allowed to have bad days but you are also allowed to have good days. Stop and give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. Treat yourself with love and kindness.
  • Positive People. I love the quote that says, ““You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn). This is powerful. When I left my marriage, I had to rebuild from the ground up. The material items were easy compared to the friendships. I am very careful about the friendships that I keep. A friendship should not leave you feeling drained. A positive friend will build you up and not tear you down.

This is the season of hope and the season of gratitude. Keep both alive…keep lighting your spark when it begins to flicker and fade. You CAN do this. The holidays can be difficult. I know this firsthand. I remember it all too well.  Listen to your inner voice. Take it easy. Be gentle with yourself. Find something to be grateful for today….and find two things to be grateful for tomorrow. Eventually, your mindset will begin to change. Being grateful may feel like work in the beginning but as time goes on, it becomes part of who you are. It is life changing.

As one door closes (2014) and another door opens (2015)….lets all stop and reflect on what we are grateful for…I am grateful to this community of amazing warriors. I always say that this is the sorority/fraternity that you never want to be a part of BUT if you are here….welcome. It’s the most amazing group of people you’ll ever meet.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking a Private Forum for advice, inspiration and support? Join Tina and the Lemonade Warriors in The Lemonade Club! For more information, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com

Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries, navigate the system and regain your power. Contact Tina Swithin at Tina Swithin, LLC

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.

Divorcing a Narcissist: Finding the Right Attorney

Divorcing a Narcissist: Finding the Right Attorney

AttorneyTaken from Tina’s book, “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield

Finding an attorney

“Why can’t you both just get along for the sake of the children?” Those words are like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who is divorcing someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). While divorce can bring out the worst in a healthy person, a divorce involving someone with NPD is like inviting the devil himself onto the battlefield. The narcissist appears to be charming, charismatic and endearing to those whom he encounters during the legal process, yet outside of the courtroom, he is calculated, manipulative and many times, downright dangerous. The untrained observer may perceive the situation to be about two immature parents who are not capable of putting their children first.

Sadly, many of the untrained observers are the very people who work in the court system such as Judges, commissioners and attorneys. A narcissist is like the modern-day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I once tried to explain to the Judge in my own divorce case that I didn’t know the man sitting 5 feet to my right. The man sitting next to me in the courtroom was not the same man whom I was attempting to co-parent with. This man claimed to love his children and stated that he wanted to spend time with them however, his actions did not match his words.

Because most courtrooms filter people in and out like cattle, it is imperative that you have an attorney who understands Narcissistic Personality Disorder and will work diligently to protect you and your children in a variety of ways. Having an attorney who understands NPD will ensure a strong parenting plan and court orders with zero room for manipulation or wiggle room. Dealing with an attorney who isn’t educated on personality disorders is an extra battle that you will not have the energy to fight. High conflict divorces are difficult enough without the added task of educating your attorney.

While I represented myself in my divorce from 2009 through 2013, I interviewed many attorneys with hopes of finding someone to take my case pro bono. One of the first things that I quickly discovered is that pro bono work is simply unheard of in family law and you have better odds of finding a needle in a haystack. Attorneys know that divorce cases, and especially high conflict divorces, can drag out for years and result in monthly, or weekly, court dates.

I met an attorney named Mr. Morrow in 2010 who really seemed to “get it” but unfortunately, it was before I understood or had a label for what was happening to me. While my therapist had labeled Seth a narcissist, I didn’t know that my divorce was a cookie-cutter example taken straight out of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder playbook. When I met with Mr. Morrow, I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and found myself unable to articulate what was happening. It was emotionally exhausting and, honestly, it was embarrassing to admit that these things were happening to me. I worried that he would think I was as crazy as Seth.

While Mr. Morrow and his wife, who was his paralegal, seemed to believe in me and wanted to help me, they simply couldn’t get sucked into the drama of my case. After our first meeting, Mr. Morrow agreed to assist me with my legal paperwork and he offered to meet with me to prepare for each court date. As promised, Mr. Morrow and his wife guided me through the forms and helped me to navigate the Family Court System. Within weeks of discovering that I had a legal team guiding me, Seth began to harass Mr. Morrow’s office to warn him that I would try to sleep with him along with other various and sundry narcissistic ramblings. I was humiliated as Mr. Morrow and his wife had begun to feel like parental figures to me. I felt like Seth was tainting the goodness of these human angels who had tirelessly helped me. Out of embarrassment, I put my tail between my legs and stopped contacting Mr. Morrow’s office as I wanted to protect them from the twilight zone that had become my life.

After that experience, I stopped trying to find an attorney and devoted my time to learning the system and the court requirements. I read everything that I could get my hands on and connected with other single mothers who were fighting similar battles. Going into court in pro se was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but even more so during the times that Seth hired counsel to represent him. He would retain an attorney when he was facing serious issues or consequences; however, he was usually dropped by the attorney within months of hiring them. Some attorneys dropped Seth because of failure to pay his legal bills and others, I assume, dropped him because he refuses to follow orders.

In my personal opinion, and based on many articles that I have read, attorneys have a very high rate of Narcissistic Personality Disorder which is why I believe that they have such a difficult time recognizing narcissism in the court room. Attorneys with high levels of narcissism have a hard time seeing the behavior as problematic when the issues so closely represent who they are as people. This is not to say that all attorneys are narcissistic by any means. Along this journey, I have made friends with several attorneys who are bright, shining lights in the Family Court System and they give me hope that there are changes on the horizon.

If I were interviewing a prospective attorney, I would be very straightforward and direct. I would ask them to describe their personal experience working with individuals who either suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or with individuals who have high narcissistic traits. That question offers a lead-in and one can quickly gauge whether or not the attorney knows enough to properly represent you. I would ask for examples of situations or cases that fall into the high conflict category and specifically, how these were handled. Any attorney who seems annoyed or put off by your questions is not the attorney that you want on your side.

Advice from the Battlefield:

1. Ask the prospective attorney the following questions:

  • Define a “High Conflict” divorce.
  • Have you discovered a link between the HCD (High Conflict Divorce) and personality disorders?
  • Have you ever won a case arguing “Emotional/Psychological Abuse”?
  • Define Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Do you work closely with psychologists/therapists and/or evaluators who are experienced in NPD?

2. The biggest issue is finding out which attorneys you should interview, but once you are at that point ask, “What are your views about high conflict divorces?” Listen to how they respond and if they assume the conflict is shared, ask, “Under what circumstances are both parties not equally responsible for a high conflict divorce?” At this point you should know whether it is worth sticking around for more questions. My next one: “How are you able to help the Judge realize that psychopathology and intentional behavior in one party can be solely responsible for maintaining high conflict divorce?”

3. Ask around first, and use word of mouth recommendations. I was lucky as I used the law firm I used to work for many years ago. I knew their family lawyers were worth their salt. I was given one attorney temporarily before I got the one that saw my case through. The temporary one seemed to be less organized and ended up going away on holidays when my first hearing was due. I didn’t like how she seemed dismissive of my case and spoke to a partner of the firm who in turn recommended the woman who took over my case. She was very thorough. I explained to her what I wanted and what the situation was and she attacked it head on. She in turn recommended my barrister who was also very proactive. Don’t settle for someone who is dismissive of you and doesn’t take the time to view the full picture.

4. Ask around for recommendations and the referring party to qualify their recommendation. Get a lawyer who’s quick out of the gate. Find someone who enjoys litigation and has been in the field for many years. Find someone who’ll advise you with the truth, not what you want to hear. I had a list of questions to ask my lawyer when we first met. I asked mine point blank if she’d come up against a narcissist before. I knew from her answer she certainly had. I had a very nice “everyone get along” mediator-style lawyer at first and although I liked her, she fell down quickly in court. Your lawyer is your voice. Don’t settle for just anyone.

5. At the beginning of my divorce, my ex-husband consulted with the top attorneys in our county which left me unable to find decent representation. Even though he didn’t actually hire them, it was a conflict of interest and it was difficult to find someone to represent me. This is a common (and dirty) trick that everyone should be aware of when starting this process. I was left with the bottom feeder attorneys to choose from and to date, I have been through five attorneys. First, I would ensure that your attorney is familiar with the Judge assigned to your case and I would directly ask him/her what other local attorneys would say about them from a professional standpoint. Ask around, read Yelp reviews on local law firms and, if you have the opportunity, sit in the courtroom to which you are assigned.  Watch different attorneys and critique how they present in the courtroom and whether or not they have a good rapport with the actual Judge. When you’ve narrowed down your selection, ask them point-blank to describe Narcissistic Personality Disorder and furthermore, how it relates to high conflict divorces. In my opinion, this is one of the most critical topics when starting the divorce process with a narcissist. The decision that you make on your attorney could make or break your case. You are choosing an advocate to represent the best interest of your children. Choose wisely.

NOTE FROM TINA: People often ask for attorney referrals and to date, there are only three attorneys that I’ve encountered that I feel 100% comfortable referencing. Two happen to be in Southern California and the third in Florida:

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking a Private Forum for advice, inspiration and support? Join Tina and the Lemonade Warriors in The Lemonade Club! For information, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com

Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries and regain your power. Contact Tina Swithin at Tina Swithin, LLC

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.

 

Divorcing a Narcissist: Foreword to Advice from the Battlefield

Divorcing a Narcissist: Foreword to Advice from the Battlefield

Front Cover PDFForeword to Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield

by Rebecca Merritt Davis

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (subsumed in Cluster B the dramatic, emotional, and erratic group of personality disorders) emotionally abuse others in their daily family lives. Their superficial relationships exist to regulate their self-esteem (DSM-V; 2013); they may appear jovial and magnanimous with high self-esteem and vindictive, controlling, and angry in periods of diminished self-esteem. Their emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence affecting the other parent, children, and extended family; institutional settings (e.g. work, school and family court) may be touched by this abuse. Narcissistic parents will harm their children even if they love them because their impaired empathy and hypersensitivity causes them to blame the other parent, to lash out at people they perceive to not be on their side, and to do everything in their power to convince the family court system of their superiority over the other parent. Narcissists vary in their abilities to hide their abusive side in the presence of esteemed others; those with better impression management skills are more successful in court.

Tina Swithin is a dynamic individual with a mission to increase awareness of narcissism and its impact upon shared parenting and divorce among the Judges, CPS workers, Guardians Ad Litem, Parenting Coordinators, and attorneys handling divorce and custody cases in our family court system. Her Facebook group is viewed by thousands of people navigating the treacherous courtroom terrain associated with leaving a narcissist and protecting their children from narcissistic rage, gas lighting, and prolonged emotional abuse. This online community is a village of survivors united in problem solving and making positive educational and dynamic changes in the family court system. Tina and her village hope to get court personnel to realize that one disturbed individual can create and maintain high conflict divorce cases inundating the court with years of unnecessary grievances while taxing the economic and psychological resources of the other parent. The demand upon the court’s time created by vengeful narcissists could be lessened if court personnel could identify patterns associated with Cluster B personality disorders, recognize the need for psychological evaluation, understand the chronic nature of these behaviors, and take timely steps to protect children and the other parent. It is my fervent hope that Tina’s books will make their way into the courtrooms of every family court Judge as well as domestic violence agencies.

Tina developed her expertise and knowledge the hard way – marrying and divorcing a narcissist. I developed my expertise the easy way, years of graduate school, obtaining the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and working as a professor at Purdue University for more than 20 years where I taught doctoral students how to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with personality disorders. My skill set includes a good understanding of the dynamics driving Cluster B personality disorders. When a family member married and divorced an individual with these dynamics I observed the damage experienced by children when the court is slow to recognize the severity of Cluster B disorders and delay protection of the children. Courts often assume both parties are equally to blame for creating and maintaining a high conflict case, so the non-narcissistic parent is treated as skeptically as the narcissistic parent. This is confusing to the other parent who listens to the narcissist spouting lies in the courtroom and describing self as the most devoted, caring parent. The courts may eventually recognize the need to take action and protect children of narcissistic parents but delayed action results in prolonged emotional abuse during children’s crucial developmental years.

Thousands of men and women in the family court system are battling with a narcissist, their children are not being adequately protected, and the court may grant primary custody to the narcissist who is able to glibly lie and manipulate in court. The non-narcissistic parent usually experiences anxiety in court while the narcissist may relish a performance platform to persuade the Judge they are the most worthy parent. Narcissistic parents voluntarily become delinquent in child support (financial control over other parent) will sob in court as they protest their undying love for their children and yet Judges will fail to recognize the discrepancy between courtroom statements and their behaviors outside of the courtroom. When unaffected parents become anxious or depressed from dealing with the narcissist’s abusive behaviors, they may be deemed psychologically unstable, placing them at risk of losing custody to the abuser. When their children report abuse by the narcissistic parent, the courts and CPS too frequently conclude that the other parent is alienating the children from the narcissistic parent. It is a challenge of immense proportion to set and maintain appropriate boundaries within the family and within the family court setting with narcissists. This book should be a valuable resource for family court professionals in helping them develop an understanding of narcissism and its impact upon families and the court. For those in the midst of courtroom battles, this book, combined with participation online, will help the other parent increase their coping strategies and skills in dealing with a narcissist in family court, allowing them to move beyond victimization and becoming a parent warrior, a survivor who is capable of protecting her or his children.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 646–649. ISBN 978-0-89042-555-8.

To share and download this file, click here: Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield 

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking a Private Forum for advice, inspiration and support? Join Tina and the Lemonade Warriors in The Lemonade Club! For information, please email Tina@onemomsbattle.com

Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries and regain your power. Contact Tina Swithin at Tina Swithin, LLC

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.