Narcissism and Family Law

As a family lawyer I have seen a lot of manipulative behavior in my time from and from both men and women. However, the most disturbing type of behavior comes from those with a Narcissistic type of personality, but often they go undetected to the outside world and the spouse or partner of a narrcissit is often not believed at first due to the very clever and manipulative lies told by the narcissist.

So what is the deifinition of a narcissist? According to the Macquarie dictionary a Narcissist is someone who has “extreme admiration for oneself or one’s own attributes”. I have come to understand that it is much more than that. A narcissist is so preoccupied with ensuring that his world appears (to everyone else) perfect in every way – they believe they are superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings.

I have seen firsthand how a narcissist behaves and it is quite disturbing. From the outside they look no different to you or me but it is their behavior that gives them away. In a divorce situation a narcisist will do anything to avoid looking like the “bad” party and may go to incredible lengths to make the other party look like the bad guy – and there is no subject that is “off limits” to them. Additionally, wanting to appear the “better” parent if children are involved, they will fight tooth and nail for custody – even if they were not that involved with the prior to the separation.

To counter a narcissist you need to keep records and notes about everything they say and do as this can be documented proof to what they are up to. A narcissist does not like to get caught out and when challenged or made to feel inferior or inadequate will usually respond with anger, but has generally told so many lies as part of their fabrications that they will slip up when faced with factual information. This is usually their downfall.

Tomich Hill Ice Block E 2011

THICEBLOCKE2011[1]By Travis Schultz

Irrespective of whether you’re keen on the “sticky” style of table wines, there are times when social etiquette requires that a token dessert wine adorns the dining table as sweets are served. To avoid insulting the taste buds or overwhelming the pudding, care is required in selecting the partner for the cheesecake, pastries or mascarpone as there are some fairly ordinary “stickies” out there on the bottle shop shelves.

But if $20 to $25 a bottle won’t blow the budget, the Tomich Wines Ice Block E 2011 is a very safe play for your next dinner party.

This cool climate Adelaide Hills combination of Riesling and Gewurztraminer is honeysuckle on the nose but a luscious blend of rose water and sweet orange peel on the palate. The beauty of the Ice Block is the control that a lingering acidity exerts at the back to give it an impressively refined finish. Put it with Turkish delight, crème brûlée and pistachios and your guests will talk about your next party for weeks!

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine

Sexually Transmitted Debt – don’t be caught out!

Leisa ToomeyAs a Family Lawyer two of the most common questions I am asked when a relationship breaks down, and there are assets and debts to be sorted, are “who is responsible for the debt?” and, “why should that responsibility be shared?”

Debts of a relationship can be packaged into many forms but the key principles are these:

  1. when the debt was incurred
  2. for what reason
  3. the debt that existed at separation and those incurred after separation.


If your partner had debt before you met him/her and that debt carries on into the relationship and still exists at the time of separation it may be omitted from the pool of net assets.  However if you both take that debt, and add to it during the relationship, then both parties become responsible for it and it can be taken into account at the end of the relationship.

If debt is created during the relationship, regardless of what name it was created under, or for what reason, the court usually says it’s a debt of the relationship that both become responsible for.


People usually incur debt in a relationship to buy a house or car or on credit cards.  However, if debt was incurred and only one party to the relationship benefited, the Court will treat is as a joint debt.

The purpose of the loan/debt is not relevant in most cases. The key is the timing of the debts and if they were incurred during the relationship, it is more than likely to be deemed a joint debt.


At separation debt on mortgages and credit cards have to become someone’s problem.  If you continue to use the credit card post separation, the debt you have incurred can become your sole responsibility. This is a very different principle to debts incurred in marriage.

When you start talking division of assets, the debts that exist at the time of separation are the relevant debts to be taken into account and it is important when establishing debt levels, post separation, that those loose ends are met with an agreement sooner rather than later.  Ideally, you should consult a lawyer as soon as practicable to understand the implications of debt and how it may affect you in the wash up of a property settlement.  Every case is different so it is vital you seek advice to help you understand what applies in your particular circumstances.

Top 10 Reasons for getting a divorce

Leisa ToomeyGetting a divorce is a painful but not unexpected occurrence in today’s world but for most of the 20th century this was not the case.  At the start of the 20th Century, there was a slow but steady rise in the crude divorce rate (the number of divorces in a calendar year per 1,000 population), increasing from 0.1 divorces per 1,000 population for each year between 1901 and 1910, to 0.8 divorces per 1,000 population between 1961 and 1970. According to a recent report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics[i], the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975 was by far the most important contributing factor involved in the higher divorce rates in the latter quarter of the century.  The Family Law Legislation, which came into effect on the 5th January 1976, requires only one ground for divorce – irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, measured as the separation of the spouses for at least one year.   It was the 1970’s and a time where, all over the world, changes in technology and lifestyles were happening faster than ever before and this new legislation was about to be embraced by a society that, until then, had few options when faced with an unhappy marriage.

Following the implementation of this law, there was a large increase in the divorce rate in 1976. The rate then declined over the next three years as the backlog of applications was cleared. Since then, the crude divorce rate has remained between 2.2 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population.  In 2008, the crude divorce rate was 2.2 divorces per 1,000 population.

Interestingly, in 2008, 6.0% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 32.7% within the first 5 years and a further 21.7% were separated within 5 to 9 years of marriage. Of divorcing couples in 2008, 16.8% were married less than 5 years, 24.6% between 5 and 9 years and 58.6% were married for 10 years or more. Around 17.2% of divorces occurred to couples who had been married for 25 years or more.

So, bearing all of this in mind, what are people citing as the most common cause of their marriage breakdown? From my own experiences in Family Law I have listed (in no particular order) the ten most common reasons people seek a divorce:

  • Financial Issues
  • Infidelity
  • Communication Breakdown
  • Physical, Psychological, or Emotional Abuse
  • Sexual Incompatibility
  • Boredom
  • Religious and Cultural Strains
  • Child Rearing
  • Addiction
  • Differences in Priorities and Expectations

There are other reasons which come up, but less so than the ones listed above.  Interfering in-laws, controlling behaviour by a spouse and extreme fatigue are other reasons couples cite when ending a marriage.