The 50-50 alternating custody schedule as a narcissistic strategy


Can he take the children away from me?

Suspected narcissistic fathers like to intimidate their (ex-)partners with this threat again and again.

As a rule, the standard answer is: No.

We could actually close this topic with that, but I notice that this topic tends to bug newly-separated mothers a lot. It was the same for me during the first two years after my separation.

So if you don’t have a drug or alcohol problem and have always taken good care of your kids, your children will not be taken away from you at your Ex’s request!

Even if other hateful aggro-Narcs may have tried and succeeded. Such cases are a great misfortune for all involved, but still the exception rather than the rule.

The normal-narcissist, however, chooses a different strategy, and there you really have to watch out, because it is really very common!

Nip it in the bud before things get worse!

At the time, I was still very eager to compromise and openly respond to everyone’s needs after the breakup. I felt very liberal and modern with this attitude.

No, I didn’t want to fight. We weren’t the kind of parents who tore each other apart in court, the kind you hear about on the media all the time. I certainly didn’t think we were the high-conflict type.

No, I’m not that kind of toxic and bitter witch!

Do you feel the same way?

Welcome to the club – most women who break up with a suspected narcissistic partner are hardly self-confident, let alone riotous.

And they love to cut themselves some slack. They don’t like to be the ones causing stress.

He wants to stay in the house? Fine, I’ll move out. He wants to visit the kids at my place two afternoons a week? Okay, that should work. He wants to keep the silverware? Fine by me. Shouldn’t grandma also get a day with the kid during the week? Hmm. Doesn’t sit well with me, but the kids love grandma, so what the heck. He can’t pay me my own child support for the first 3 years? True, would really be quite a bit, I realize. The main thing is that he pays for the kids, I still go to work part time.


If you think like that, then you’ll be hitting your head in 2 or 3 years, tops. Then, when you have gained emotional distance, you will come to admit that you’ve created highly disadvantageous scenarios for yourself – and the children.

Your motto now should be: You don’t have to get mean – just be smart!

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On the paternal metamorphosis

I’m always intrigued by the transformation narcissistic men undergo when their children’s mother decides to leave them.

The unassuming caterpillar, with its unattractive appearance and slow crawl, transforms into a magnificent butterfly, embracing a sense of paternal emotion, having nestled comfortably in its cocoon with only its thoughts at the core.

Isn’t that fantastic? A miracle of nature!

The individual who, during the two months of parental leave (if taken at all), predominantly spent time in the hobby cellar or on the road, now perceives it as an unbearable hardship if the children are separated from him.

It doesn’t matter whether you actually plan to take the kids away. After all, the children need a place to live, and if you decide to move out while your soon-to-be-ex has shown little care or responsibility, it makes sense to take them to live in your new apartment.

You work part-time, he works full-time, or is self-employed – how could it be any different?

Surprisingly, what options do you think suddenly arise, especially when you’ve made the decision to leave him?

“I’ll show her! How dare she expose me like this in front of my acquaintances and relatives!” he says.

And, like magic, the man suddenly finds the time! Every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Judge, please consider joint physical custody with 50/50 schedule!

It’s convenient that he won’t have to pay alimony then. She shouldn’t expect to get anything from my hard-earned money! But the children are still so small… No way! I am also a primary caregiver; they will feel comfortable with me. Such an old wives’ tale about early bonding and being a mother hen!

Here’s my advice: avoid the 50/50 custody schedule when your children are small. If they grow up and want it against all odds, that’s a different story, but consider an alternative anyway.

Please be cautious: a 50/50 custody schedule with a narcissist is bound to fail. It requires constant coordination, repeated contact, and continual agreement.

More information

The 50/50 joint physical custody schedule really only works under the following conditions:

  • If the children are older and explicitly state a desire for it (even though it demands a significant investment of their time and patience to go back and forth between houses)
  • if you live close to each other AND
  • if you can still communicate effectively.

Remember the golden rule with breaking up with a narcissist is distance, distance, and more distance.

In communication. In physical proximity. In everyday life.

You were under tension in your relationship every day. If, even after moving out, you find yourself having to coordinate the children’s daily life with him every day through emails or phone calls, you’ll never truly be able to relax.

With a 50/50 schedule, he still has control over you and your life.

Therefore: No 50/50 custody schedule with a narcissist. Never ever. No way.

Milder custody schedules like 80/20, 60/40, or alternating weekends (where the children live with you and visit their father, for example, every two weeks during the weekend) can already be potential sources of trouble.

Don’t even attempt to do 50/50 custody on a trial basis! Otherwise, you might inadvertently establish circumstances that he can use to his advantage in court.

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


The rationale behind it

You might be wondering how he plans to implement a 50/50 custody schedule so swiftly, when he could barely even get home in time for dinner before?

With the help of his mother, of course.

And she has a score to settle with you, anyway. Why would you leave her golden boy? So irresponsible of you! You have kids to think about! In the past, people used to endure tough times, but nowadays, young women only seem to think about themselves!

So it might be that the children have to go to grandma’s on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons after school, come back to stay with you on Friday, and then have to go back to their dear dad on Saturday and Sunday.

Certainly, each parent is free to decide how to organize childcare once the child exchange has occurred. If you plan to attend a nice concert (or go on a date) on a Saturday evening later on, you’ll appreciate it if your ex doesn’t try to influence your choice of babysitter.

It’s certainly disheartening, to say the least, when a 50/50 custody schedule is mandated and enforced in court, with a crucial role given not to the caring father but to his – presumably also narcissistic – mother!

Except for the two egoists, everyone suffers: the children, as they are constantly on the move and unable to find peace, and you, because you empathize with them and simply can’t sever the connection with these energy vampires or reduce it to a reasonably tolerable level.

So don’t get involved in any comparisons and attempts. Stay stubborn.

Conclusion: Don’t make it too easy for him.

I’ve heard that judges often tend to favor the party who is the most stubborn. They aim to resolve the case swiftly, and their judgment may be influenced by the desire to clear their docket efficiently, as it reflects on their performance later.

Indeed, court dates can be the most stressful and draining aspect of the process. If you haven’t been married to the guy for long, the overall number of court appearances might be lower from the outset, which can be a good thing.

If he approaches you without a court date, especially in the first weeks of separation, presenting a vague alternating custody agreement that he insists you sign to avoid going to court, don’t be deceived by his sudden display of kindness.

You know how charming narcissists can be – when they want to be!

If he demands something from you, and you are uncertain or uneasy about it, let him take it to court. Take the initiative to find a competent lawyer experienced in dealing with such situations. This way, you can ensure that your rights and interests are properly represented and protected.

No, you are not the high-conflict parent! You are the protective, smart mother who doesn’t let anyone take advantage of her and stands up for her rights.

You can do it!

P.S.: By the way, there is a third model, which I mention here only for the sake of completeness: the bird’s nest model. But this is so unusual and expensive that it is probably not feasible in most cases – and it will not work with a narcissistic Ex-partner.

In the bird’s nest model, it’s not the children who move, but the parents on a weekly or daily basis. This arrangement requires three apartments: one for each parent and a central family apartment. In a carefully coordinated rotation, either the father or the mother lives in the nest apartment at a given time.

But just the mere thought that the narcissistic ex was in the apartment before, possibly with his clothes in the closet and his aftershave scent lingering in the bathroom, might indeed send a shiver down the spine of some mothers and trigger a visceral reaction.

The nest model could be the best arrangement for the children, but it’s typically feasible only for affluent families that have separated amicably. Unfortunately, it may not be suitable for families dealing with psychopathic dynamics.

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