borderline personality disorder in child custody Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has gotten much attention in the past several years, especially in the context of divorce and custody litigation.   If you are divorcing a spouse with BPD, it is important to approach the litigation keeping in mind your soon-to-be ex’s (STBE) mental health issues and the related traits.  You need to be educated and remain proactive through all stages of the proceedings.  This is a starting point to help you in researching and preparing yourself for such a divorce or custody case.

BPD is a real disorder, like cancer or diabetes.  An expert should be able to diagnose the disorder, so your attorney should seek to obtain evidence  through a mental health evaluation in litigation if child custody is an issue.  The evaluation should also seek evidence of substance abuse, often a related issue for those with BDP.   

An individual with BPD is completely capable of, and usually appears, intelligent and sympathetic at first glance.  It is not uncommon for a parent with BPD to carefully orchestrate a campaign designed to make you look like a bad parent.  Be prepared for this by documenting everything related to communications and actions, and alert those who may be witnesses to expect to hear from your STBE and to take what he or she has to say with caution.  

Do not overreact when your STBE engages in outrageous behavior.  Don’t retaliate, but instead stay calm and react appropriately.  Do everything you can to keep your children out of the line of fire.  If your STBE insists on involving the children in his or her attack, which is very likely with BPD, do everything necessary to get yourself and the child into counseling immediately to deal with the situation. If you are in custody litigation, this may require court approval, so check with your attorney before you seek counseling for your kids.   You should also research local support groups in your community, which are very likely available.

DO NOT BACK DOWN because you want to be the peacekeeper or the “nice guy”.  Sadly, the courts are overburdened and under-resourced, so custody battles can drag on for months or years.  But settling just to avoid a fight or the cost of court likely is not a good idea when dealing with a BPD parent.  This person may never let up, especially if they never face consequences.  Further, in all likelihood, no matter how reasonable you are, this personality type will not settle and will want to take you to court.  A custody battle is likely inevitable (especially if substance abuse is a factor), so begin preparing for this early on.  Document EVERYTHING.  Begin planning ahead and consult an attorney early on to develop a strategy.  Then stick with that strategy and do as much of the legwork and documenting as you can yourself to save on what can be significant attorneys’ fees.         

Most importantly, keep your children at the forefront.  Watch them carefully, talk to them, and help them deal with the other parent.  That parent is and will always be their Mom or Dad.  Do not get it in your mind that you will go to court and a judge will fix your family and your kids.  The experts who are assisting with your case (attorneys, therapists and forensic evaluators) should be consulted at every stage to assist in bringing the court realistic solutions to be incorporated into the court’s orders.     

Again, there are literally tens of hundreds of resources available to assist in dealing with this personality type.  Consult the resources your therapist recommends.  Being armed with knowledge to deal with the BPD parent on a daily basis is the best strategy since you are the one that will be handling the day-to-day with this person, likely for many years to come if you have children together.     

 -Michele LoBello, Esq.

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