NOTE: Call the police if you are ever in fear for your safety. Police officers receive ample training in responding to domestic violence calls. And, they have the power to call a judge, 24 hours a day, and request an emergency protective order, a short restraining order before the matter is heard in court. Importantly, you will need to tell the police you fear for your safety if that is true for you.

My experience as a Marin County divorce attorney who has handled abuse cases is that most women do not realize they have been victims of abuse. For example, I had a potential client come to my office and tell me that her husband, who lived overseas, had video cameras all throughout the home her and her son lived in. She went onto tell me that her husband stated he needed the cameras so he knew what was going on with her and their son’s lives. This woman did not think it was that big of a deal. Yet, she had her virtual consultation with me while in her car so her husband would not know she was talking to me or listening in. To her surprise, I told her that her situation was crazy. That she should not be watched 24 hours a day via video camera.

California law provides for protection from many forms of abuse. Family Code section 6320 states a judge may issue a restraining order to protect you from your narcissist’s threats, attacks disturbing your peace, isolating you from friends, relatives or other sources of support, depriving you of basic necessities, controlling or monitoring your movements among other types of abuse.

A narcissist’s abuse is often evidenced by emails, text messages and call logs showing repeated calls from your narcissist to you. Your narcissist’s abuse may be in the content of the messages. But it can also be in the sheer number of text or email messages or number of times he calls you. Remember, you should always confirm in a message to your narcissist what just took place if his verbal abuse is in person not evidenced by anyone else.

I also have a large blow up exhibit I use in trial of Penal Code section 653m, which can serve as the legal basis for a domestic violence restraining order. This is the California statute that prohibits phone calls, email/emails and text messages or any other type of electronic message that is obscene, threatening or repeated and done with the intent to harass or annoy you.

As such, abuse takes many forms. And the court can issue an order protecting you from various types of abuse, not just physical harm.

I have handled and tried domestic violence cases where I am seeking a domestic violence restraining order for my client’s protection. I have never lost any of these cases. Yet, none were granted based on physical violence. The orders have been granted on verbal abuse and emotional abuse.

A Narcissist’s Power and Control

Regardless of the type of abuse, all of this domestic abuse is centered around your husband or father of your children or romantic partner exerting Power and Control over you.

Some examples of abuse that can seek protection from are:

Verbal:  I most often see verbal abuse combined with another type of abuse, summarized below.  Verbal abuse is telling you that you are not a good person, that you are a terrible person, belittling you, telling you that you’re a bad mother and on and on. Constant teasing, objectifying you, and making you feel inferior are forms of verbal abuse.

Coercive and Threats: Threatening to leave you, threatening to commit suicide if you leave him, threatening to report you to the authorities for being a bad mother, threatening to call the police on you, telling you that you will lose in court, threatening to hurt you.

Financial Control: Preventing you from accepting or maintaining your job, taking your money or not letting you access the family’s income.

Intimidation: Making you feel afraid by the way he treats you, looks at you, destroying your personal property, abusing pets, showing you weapons or pictures of his guns and weapons.

Stalking: Following you around, tracking you, repeatedly emailing, calling and texting you.

Isolation: Controlling who you can talk to, who you can socialize with, what clothing you wear and using jealousy to justify his actions.

Sexual Abuse: Forcing you to have sex with him, making you perform sexual acts you are not comfortable with is sexual abuse.

Cultural and Spiritual Abuse: putting you down for your spiritual or cultural customs is another form of abuse.

Then, the perpetrator of the abuse will act lovey dovey with you to pretend none of the above happened. All is good until the next time the abuse happens.

Control of the house, car and pets

Additionally, you may seek control and exclusive use of your real estate including your home, personal property including use of your car, and pets as part of your restraining order.

Traits of a Narcissist’s Abuse

As stated above, a narcissist’s abuse is centered around their power and control over you. And this can continue even after divorce or separation.

The primary characteristic of a narcissist abuser is superiority over you. Telling you what to do, making most of the decisions for you, do all the talking, critical of you, controlling the finances are some examples of this superiority.

But, your narcissist believes, in his own sick mind, that he is the victim. And you are to blame for everything. Narcissists are often jealous of you and this takes the form of their believing they are the victim.

Abuse does not end post-divorce or breakup.

This does not end after divorce either. For example, I had a woman come to me a few years after her divorce was finalized. Her ex-husband was following her, would show up at her house at odd hours, and constantly text her. He did the same things during marriage. But she believed that her narcissist’s craziness would end after the divorce was final. It did not.

She contacted me. I took the case to trial, which was full of surprises. I had a great cross examination of the narcissist set up. But, I had to alter my cross examination after the narcissist testified that his ex-wife was a floozy because he caught her sleeping with another man after the divorce. His lawyer seemed to think this was a great line of questioning. His lawyer even asked how he discovered she was sleeping with another man. He responded that one time he had climbed up on the fire escape of her apartment, looked in his ex-wife’s apartment window and saw her having sex with another man. Wow!!!

My first questions on cross examination were to have the narcissist reiterate that he had climbed up my client’s fire escape to the second floor to see if she was having sex with another man. After he agreed, I asked the judge to inform the narcissist of his Constitutional 5th Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination since he had just admitted to trespassing, stalking, and invasion of privacy.

Needless to say, the judge stopped me a quarter of the way through my cross examination and issued a long term restraining order protecting my client.

You should probably fire your lawyer if he/she tell you to agree to a non-CLETS domestic violence restraining order.

CLETS stands for the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. The restraining order protecting you will be entered into this system so that the police are aware of the order should you need to call the police in case of emergency. Your narcissist will also be required to turn over any guns and weapons during the duration of the restraining order.

I have had women come to be numerous times telling me the abuse has not stopped after they agreed to, on the advice of their attorney, to a non-CLETS restraining order. Your restraining order is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is registered with the CLETS system.

You may hear something like, “A CLETS restraining order will hurt his [narcissist] chance of employment” Or, keeping employment. And, therefore, they’ll tell you, “He will not be able to pay you support.”

I say, “Bullshit!” The narcissist should of thought about that before he engaged in the abuse. You need the restraining order in the CLETS system to protect you. And, magically, the narcissist will likely figure out a way to earn a living.


I want to end this chapter given you hope and not all doom and gloom. You have tools available to you for your protection. Take advantage of them. A restraining order may be what you need to protect you and allow you to take back control of your life. Just make sure you retain a lawyer who is familiar with this area of law and is will not back down.

Contact our office at 415-635-0411 if you would like to learn if a domestic violence restraining order is appropriate for you.

Paul Nathan
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Marin County California Divorce, Child Support and Custody Lawyer Representing Women Exclusively