and I just found out that she is sleeping with my best friend.
I want a divorce!"
That's what "Robert" told me about his wife, "Nicole", the first time he consulted with me. (Details changed for confidentiality.)
Robert's a good guy who has gone through hell.
Understandably, he was a bit of a mess when we first met.
But he's turned it all around and made a great life for himself and his kids.
I'll show you how he did it, and I'll give you ideas for how you can get a fair settlement, too.
Whether or not your spouse is a narcissist...keep reading...you'll see a lot in Robert's story that will help you.
This is especially true if your spouse has substance abuse issues, has committed adultery, is a "control freak", or interferes with your relationship with your kids.
(As an aside, if you have divorce-related questions, sign up for my Daily Dose of Divorce email course. It's the best investment you can make in yourself. And it's free.)
"SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT."
Robert and Nicole live in New Jersey with their three kids.
On February 21, 2020, just before the Covid pandemic hit, like every other weekday morning for the past 19 years, Robert left his house at 5:15 AM for the long commute to his office in New York.
The accounting firm he works for has an office nearby where he could work, but he makes far more money in the city, and living in New Jersey is expensive.
It's a long day, but it allows him to provide his family with a 6-figure income.
Nicole stopped working when they had their first child 15 years ago, and she's been a homemaker ever since.
Married life was not perfect, he confided in me. Nicole overspends. She's often self-absorbed. She takes care of her needs and doesn't really seem to consider his.
“She might be a narcissist" he started thinking to himself recently.
Nonetheless, Robert said that he was happy enough.
But he was not happy that Nicole had lost her desire to have relations with him.
“Hormones”, she told him. "And you get home from work so late. I'm lonely."
"You just don't get it" he tells her repeatedly.
He trusts Nicole. They love each other dearly, Robert tells himself.
Yet something doesn't feel right.
A week before he first came to see me he put a tracking device on Nicoles's car "....just to make sure that she wasn't cheating."
He he knew that it was illegal to do so in New Jersey but he said that he "...just had to know."
Nothing unusual showed up for the first 7 days, which made Robert feel guilty.
But that day at 12:42 PM, Robert's life changed forever.
The tracking device notified his iPhone that Nicole's car was in his best friend Alan's garage.
"What the hell is she doing there?" he thought.
He quickly got himself a shot of Jack Daniels from his desk drawer. A little bit of alcohol always calms him down.
"Hi Honey!" he said into his phone, his heart pounding out of his chest, feeling the drenching sweat rolling down his hand. "What are you doing?"
"Oh, you know, just the same old thing. Got the kids off to school, and now I'm cleaning the house. I can't wait to get out of here, but I've just been too busy today.”
Then a long, uncomfortable silence.
They both knew.
He called Alan. The phone rang 8 times. Then voicemail.
"What ‘cha doin’, buddy? Give me a call back ASAP."
The call was not returned.
ROBERT IS FURIOUS
He stormed into the house two hours early.
"I'm outta here!" he blurted out as he moved past Nicole to the master bedroom to grab some personal things.
"You stink like Jack Daniels again. I knew you went back to drinking. Disgusting!
And if you weren't working all the time, you would have noticed how unhappy I've been!" she screamed at him.
"I want a divorce, you devious, cheating narcissist!" he yelled back at her.
"YOU want a divorce? I'll give you a divorce that you'll never forget! You are an obsessive-compulsive workaholic & an alcoholic!
"Workaholic? Alcoholic? I bust my ass to give you everything you've ever asked for, and you're screwing that sleazy bum Alan?
You won't get a damn nickel from me, and I'll take custody of the kids from you! And I keep telling you, I'm not an alcoholic!" Robert screamed at her.
"Me? YOU caused this" Nicole replied. "It's not my fault.
You can forget about seeing your kids! They can't stand you as it is. You're such an alcoholic. I'm gonna go for the jugular and take you for everything that you've got!...
...and by the way...following me with a GPS device is illegal in New Jersey. I'm gonna ask the Judge to put your ass in jail, you creepy stalker!" she yelled with a smile.
Robert looked at me with a tired, dazed look.
"SHE cheats on ME with MY best friend, and now SHE calls me a stalker, says that she is going to go for the jugular, tells me that my kids who adore me really hate me and so she's gonna take my kids away from me, and threatens to ask the Judge to put me in jail?
What a narcissistic nut job. How the hell did I ever marry that wacko?"
I continued to listen carefully.
"It's over. I have integrity. I can accept many things, but betrayal is not one of them.
Robert started to cry uncontrollably.
"I won't pay a dime of alimony!" he sobbed after a minute or so.
"And that cheating bitch isn't getting any of my 401(k), my IRA, my pension, or any of my stocks.
She deserves nothing from me. Let that jackass support her."
In addition, Robert said that he wants to ask the Judge for sole custody. He said that Nicole is an unfit mother, and that the kids would rather live with him anyway.
He also said that he wants a full psychological report done on her "...to prove that she is a narcissist."
ROBERT NEEDS HELP
At times, through his rage, Robert realizes that he is speaking and acting irrationally, but he is having trouble being calm right now.
The next morning on the ferry to Manhattan, a commuter friend recommended my Daily Dose of Divorce email series to Robert.
Robert immediately subscribed right from his iPhone and his first email arrived instantaneously.
He read it.
He said that the first email was so useful to him that each day thereafter he looked forward to receiving his email from me.
Robert told me that these daily emails answered a lot of his questions and gave him a lot of emotional comfort.
Ultimately Robert hired me to represent him in his divorce case.
I helped him understand the law, and in particular, the way that our divorce court judges in New Jersey tend to apply the law to situations like his.
Together, we explored a series of realistic settlement possibilities.
I also recommended several therapists and financial experts to him.
Robert hired a therapist who helped him deal with his feelings of betrayal, got him to slow down and think about what his goals are, and helped him to focus on what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of his children.
He also hired a financial advisor, who helped him get a better grasp on his finances and helped him prepare his Case Information Statement to support his divorce case's financial theory.
He and Nicole attended a special custody mediation program at the Court House.
We exchanged multiple settlement proposals with Nicole's lawyer, and Robert and Nicole, with their attorneys present, participated in mediation of the economic issues.
Ultimately, Robert settled the case in a way that meets his needs and the needs of his children.
Nicole was not able to "take him for all that he's got." Not even close.
It was a fair deal.
There was no need for an expensive, drawn-out contested divorce trial.
Issues of custody and money that at first seemed impossible to resolve were worked out fairly.
Ultimately, Robert and Nicole had a simple uncontested divorce hearing at the County Court House.
Robert then began to heal.
ROBERT'S LIFE GOT BACK ON TRACK
Robert called me to say "hello" recently. He said that he would have preferred to stop in to say hello in person but he's been working from an extra bedroom in his new home because of Covid concerns.
He sounds like a new man.
The rage from the betrayal of his ex-wife and his former best friend that at one time had consumed him is gone.
He told me that his relationship with his children has never been better, and that he was surprised to find that he is not lonely but rather he's enjoying his freedom.
He's able to afford to do what's important to him.
"Life is good!" he told me.
My guess is that you are at this website because, like Robert, you have also reached a breaking point.
Being married to a narcissist like Robert was can be really tough.
But it is also hard being married to someone who is bi-polar, alcoholic, or a drug abuser.
Or someone who engages in controlling behavior, adultery, lying, overspending, or obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Often it is a combination of these issues that causes someone to consult with me.
WHATEVER THE CAUSE, A DIVORCE MAY BE COMING, AND YOU HAVE CONCERNS.
You're seeking direction.
"What are my options?"
"How do I protect myself?"
"What should my next step be?"
You feel a need to find out how to best protect your kids and your assets.
You need to be sure that you'll have enough money if you do actually divorce.
You don't want to fight; you just want to be fair.
But you're not sure if your spouse will be fair to you.
You're concerned about the future. The uncertainty is making you fearful.
Thoughts of being alone again, of returning to the dating scene, and of being a single parent add to your stress.
It's hard to sleep.
I GET IT.
I understand the stressors that divorce brings.
Every day for the past 34 years I've worked with divorcing people throughout New Jersey.
Not only am I highly trained and experienced as a divorce specialist but for the past 34 years, I have personally experienced what divorcing families go through (click here for my background.)
And along the way I've learned that the way issues in a divorce case are SUPPOSED to be decided is often different from the way that these issues ACTUALLY end up getting resolved.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
Wouldn't it be useful to know the difference between the way that the Court system provides for your divorce issues to be resolved from the actual way that many people end up resolving those issues?
Of course it would.
So how can you learn the difference?
The most useful thing that you can do is to do what Robert did: get a solid "divorce education."
The more you learn about how child custody is decided, how assets are divided, and how alimony and child support are determined, the sooner your anxiety will lessen.
And the better prepared you will be to consider the differences between the ways that the court system says that your case will be decided from the other, often much better, available options.
To get helpful information about divorce in New Jersey, Sign up for my "Daily Dose of Divorce" emails.
Your first "Daily Dose of Divorce" email will arrive immediately.
These emails are a great way for you to conquer your divorce-related fears.
And your divorce-driven anxiety will start to decrease each day as you learn how to get through this tough time.
Are you ready to begin learning?
Click the above link and I'll immediately provide you with your first email loaded with helpful tips.
Then check your email every 24 hours for the next 30 days for that day's hot tips.
And if you ever feel the need for a Divorce Strategy Session with me personally, I'm always just a phone call away at (732) 845-9010.
Hang in there...this is going to help you.
Steven J. Kaplan, Esq.
5 Professional Circle
Colts Neck, NJ. 07722
Specializing in N.J. Divorce