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Dealing with Problematic Personality Traits in Family Law

July 25, 2023

Dealing with Problematic Personality Traits in Family Law

Despite the rate of diagnosed personality disorders in the general population being relatively low, people involved in family law matters commonly use terms such as “narcissist”, “borderline”, and “bipolar” when describing their former partner.


Unfortunately, the truth is that most cases the courts see involve high levels of conflict and involve at least one party with a high-conflict personality and/or a personality disorder. However, how these issues are dealt with in the system is significantly impacted by how their presentation is described to the Court.


Due to the frequency with which terms such as “narcissist”, “borderline”, and “bipolar” are thrown around by parties themselves, the system seems to have become somewhat complacent when accusations of that nature are made. These behaviours, however, can pose a significant risk, and it is, therefore, crucial that they are assessed and dealt with appropriately.


Here are our top 5 tips to ensure that your concerns about problematic personality traits are given appropriate weight in family court proceedings:

  • Avoid using diagnostic terms unless you have appropriate qualifications to be making these kinds of diagnosis;
  • Keep contemporaneously notes about behaviours and interactions where problematic personality traits have been apparent – dates, times and detailed descriptions about what occurs carry far more weight than labels. It will also enable us to establish a pattern of behaviour that will allow a diagnosis to be made by a qualified professional;
  • Ensure that the risk any problematic personality traits pose to a child is clearly emphasised – a diagnosis of a mental health issue alone does not mean that the relationship between a parent and child should be restricted; and
  • Approach any discussions around these traits from a place of concern rather than criticism – your concerns will be given much more weight if it doesn’t look like you are “slinging mud”.


If you are concerned that your former partner may have some problematic personality traits that will impinge on your child’s safety (either physical or emotional), the lawyers at Umbrella Family Law can ensure that your case is presented in a way that will ensure your concerns are adequately addressed.


If you would like to know more or need advice, please get in touch with us at Umbrella Family Law on (03) 9279 6800.

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