Marie Sarantakis is the founder of Sarantakis Law Group, LTD. She is a best-selling author, a prominent family law attorney, nationally recognized divorce coach, and the president of Adrikos, LLC. In this episode, Marie talks about narcissism in divorce court cases and defines what it really means and how it differs from mere selfish behavior.
They also discussed how divorce coaches can give clients support beyond the courtroom as they are able to provide emotional support and a big picture analysis of the situation. Lastly, they talked about the benefits of the remote environment of the pandemic in law and how it could help with expanding your network.
“You get divorced based on irreconcilable differences. Just because you married a bad person, doesn’t mean you actually get more in the divorce case.”
Sarantakis Law Group, LTD.
Marie Sarantakis, Founder of Sarantakis Law Group, LTD
Marie Sarantakis is the founder of Sarantakis Law Group, LTD. She is a best-selling author, a prominent family law attorney, nationally recognized divorce coach, and the president of Adrikos, LLC.
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Ron Bockstahler 0:29
All right, welcome to the show. A good to have everyone back today we got a special guest who has a best selling author. She's a prominent family law attorney nationally recognized divorce coach, she's founded her own law firm Sarah Takus Law Group, and she's the president and re coasts LLC located in Oak Brook Marie San Takus. Murray, welcome to the show today.
Marie Sarantakis 0:48
Thank you so much for having me, Ron.
Ron Bockstahler 0:51
Okay, I want to get started quick. But let's give a little background You've done so much in your career already. So kindly was talking to how your family law attorney, you've written a book, How to divorce a narcissist, and when and when. And we want to talk about that kind of go through some of those things. But let's just talk about how you got to where you're at today.
Marie Sarantakis 1:07
Sure. So you know, I come from a Greek immigrant family, my parents had businesses as I was growing up. So I've always been the type of person where work was just a normal part of life, and something that was sort of at the center. And I always knew I would own my own business one day, didn't always know what it would be. I went to law school became a lawyer. And I started my own practice about a month after I was licensed. So I jumped right in with both feet and have been a divorce attorney ever since. Wow. And successful.
Marie Sarantakis 1:42
Ron Bockstahler 1:43
Let's go. You wrote to me, why'd you write the book, I mean, what gave you that energy, time, desire?
Marie Sarantakis 1:49
Sure. So as far as time I just don't necessarily sleep a lot. So I like to keep busy. And I'm naturally a very creative person. And I love to build things, I love to create something out of nothing. And writing a book on divorce. And narcissism just seemed like the perfect fit. I found so many of my clients would come in talking about having a narcissistic spouse. And I felt like a lot of attorneys didn't quite understand what it meant. And that clients really were able to heal and move on, the better. They understood what it was and how to deal with it. And so I thought it was such an important topic. And when I found myself having the same conversations over and over again, I thought, this really needs to be shared with a broader audience beyond just my clients. So that's what motivated me to write the book. And it was a really fun experience to put together. So I enjoyed working on it, I typically worked very late at night. So anybody that knows me knows I'm a night owl. And you know, I would say 99% of the book was written well, after midnight every night.
Ron Bockstahler 2:57
You know, my first question is, I can see someone's coming in, they want to get a divorce, they're unhappy, clearly, they want to leave their spouse, I would just use the term of the narcissist in a general format, probably understanding exactly what it is. Did you? Was it more of that? Or did you actually was the opposing spouse actually a narcissist.
Marie Sarantakis 3:15
So you know, it goes both ways. I certainly think that there's a lot of people who assume their spouse is a narcissist, just because their spouse is acting selfishly, but selfishly really doesn't quite get at what somebody with narcissistic personality disorder has. That's a whole different level of depravity of cruelness. And you know, that particular disorder is much more calculated, that person needs constant stream of attention. And if things are not about them, they become very angry, and they always find a way to shift the focus about them. And somebody with narcissistic personality disorder also is all about control. They need to control everything and everyone around them to such an extent that it doesn't matter what the cost or the consequences are. Control is everything.
Ron Bockstahler 4:04
So wow, how many clients do you think have come into your office over the past 10 plus years and said, legit, I got a narcissist, I've got to get away.
Marie Sarantakis 4:15
Oh, I couldn't even tell you how many. But I could tell you it certainly is very common. You know, this is probably something we hear about several times each week. And what's rather interesting is you know, sometimes we see people alleging their spouse may be a narcissist, but maybe it's them. Maybe they're the one who's the narcissist themselves and are just trying to get ahead of it. Maybe their spouse has already alleged to them that that's what they believe they are. So they think, Well, if I get ahead of it and say that they're the narcissist. Now, they're less credible when they make the same allegation. You know, but at the end of the day, as far as divorce court goes, in a certain sense, it doesn't really matter, right. I see this common misunderstanding that clients feel compelled that the judge needs to know that their spouse is a narcissist, and all the evil and cruel things they've done. Now granted, some of the things may be very relevant to, let's say, parenting time and raising children, maybe affairs and spending money on that. Sure those things may be relevant to a divorce case. But the general idea that their spouse is a jerk that really doesn't come into play Illinois and no fault divorce state, you get divorced based on irreconcilable differences. Just because you married a bad person, doesn't mean you actually get more in the divorce case. Wow. Alright, so
Ron Bockstahler 5:36
let's go back to that real quickly. Why did you go into family law because you're coming right out of law school when you started your firm?
Marie Sarantakis 5:41
Sure, well, I sort of fell into it, I always thought I would do criminal law. But I started working with a family law firm. And basically, by the time I was ready to graduate, I had quite a bit of experience in the field. And I was also extremely involved in various bar associations. So it's kind of funny, because even though I was a law student, I think a lot of the attorneys around me assumed I was a lawyer, because they had seen me for so many years at so many places, and being so involved, they didn't quite realize that I was so young and so new in the field. And because of that, it was such a blessing because I was able to get referrals right off the bat. And that's part of the reason why I was able to open my own firm so young, because of the networks and the connections that I had made. While before my career even started.
Ron Bockstahler 6:31
Yes, that makes me want to jump into a whole different topic, which is networking as an attorney, the valleys critical. We'll save that because I really want to get back to the book because I really want to talk about the different stages you've outlined. And I look at this as a specialty within a specialty. So you got family law, we're talking about divorce, and now we're talking about divorce specifically to someone with narcissistic behavior. And how do you help your client work get through this?
Marie Sarantakis 6:58
Well, I think a huge part of it is knowing that somebody understands what they're going through, because narcissists tend to gaslight their victims, so they try to make the other person believe that they're going crazy that their interpretation of things are wrong. And so by the time they come and see me, oftentimes they're doubting themselves, they're doubting what they've experienced, their self confidence is hurting. And so I try to help them first and foremost, cope with the reality of their situation, and shift their focus from that other person and maybe directing anger or revenge towards them and focusing their efforts on bettering themselves. Going back to who they used to be before they were with the narcissist, and finding that person again, and pursuing their dreams, because they often feel so despondent and hopeless. To me, the most rewarding part of what I do is giving people hope again, and then seeing them on their way to the next part of their journey.
Ron Bockstahler 7:59
Or in the by the way, you brought up sat with my wife when I was reading part of this book and gaslighting in. I asked, my wife said, You know what that means? She goes, Oh, yeah, because I used to experience that with my dad, who we've since reading your book, and he started saying that he definitely has Narcissus behaviors. How do you because it seems like a narcissist can bring that loved one back time and time again, push them away, and then bring them back? Why do you isn't attorney consulting your client? And they're kinda got to be thinking on the edge at certain times, like, oh, it's horrible. And then the next week, it's great again, how do you help them work through that and understand what's going on?
Marie Sarantakis 8:34
Even though I'm a divorce attorney, I certainly want to see families reconcile if there's ever a hope or chance for that, I want to see that happen, right. But I never want to see somebody go back to an abusive situation. And so you know, it's a fine line, because you don't know whether the person is being physically mentally abused, right. And so if it's just a function of this going back and forth pendulum of dealing with a difficult individual, you know, we see that happen a lot. And oftentimes with the narcissist, they can be on their best behavior for a short period of time, right? So we may see them stay all the right things and take all the right actions to win that person back over and say, Oh, I don't want to be because they don't want to get divorced to them. It doesn't fit into their perfect narrative. They want to appear as though they have the perfect family unit. And they would much rather drag their spouse along and have their spouse just put up with anything and everything that they do all their bad behavior. So what they'll do is for example, let's say a divorce case is pending. And things may not be going their way in the divorce. And so they'll the son hmm, maybe I'll try to charm my spouse back. You know, maybe they'll reconcile and we'll pull back the divorce proceeding. And oftentimes that happens, but sadly we also see a high rate of those people refiling sometime later really just starting over back at the beginning, but now, the narcissists knowing what direction things were heading, maybe doing sneaky things behind the scenes, hiding more money getting better at, you know, concealing this bad behavior. So that can be very dangerous, you know, and one option that clients have, if they're married to a spouse and considering reconciliation, I always offer the option. certain counties have what's called a reconciliation calendar, which basically means we pause the proceedings. So their initial filing is still pending. But we're not going to court every 3045 days, we may wait a few months and go back and give the court an update. At that point, we can tell the judge, look, we've reconciled and we want to take the case off call pull back a petition for dissolution, or judge we tried to reconcile it didn't work. We need to go forward with the divorce case.
Ron Bockstahler 10:51
Let's jump in. Because you're also a nationally recognized divorce coach, talk about what you're doing in that role. You got a firm? That's a separate firm from your law practice,
Marie Sarantakis 11:00
correct? Exactly. Yes. A Dracos.
Ron Bockstahler 11:04
Yeah. So talk to us a little bit about what you're doing there? And are you working with clients that are non clients of your law firm?
Marie Sarantakis 11:12
Yeah, so I never coach my law clients, I always keep that very separate. But I do recommend that all my law clients have a divorce coach, if it's possible. So divorce coach is someone you work with, let's say on a more personal level than your attorney, your attorney is there to help you through the litigation, they go to court, they file pleadings, their end goal is to get you in and out of the case with the greatest settlement possible, right. But divorce attorneys aren't necessarily the best people, they're not your best friend to just have conversations with about the divorce proceeding in general, if it's not necessarily law related. So sometimes people just need to talk about these things and work through various scenarios. A divorce coach doesn't give any legal advice. But they have a great deal of experience in divorce proceedings, and really can help someone with the whole process and looking at things very big picture. And helping people understand where to focus their efforts and energies, and what things may not be worth dealing with.
Ron Bockstahler 12:17
So typically, I actually didn't realize there was a role of a divorce coach, Coach, I should have, I guess, I never thought about it. It's just a divorce
Marie Sarantakis 12:23
coach can save clients substantial money with their divorce attorney, because generally speaking, you're going to be paying the divorce coach, less per hour. And because they really help you get focused on what's important in the case, they may be able to narrow down the issues for you.
Ron Bockstahler 12:40
Wow, that's so you think every Have you just said it, every person getting divorced, should have a coach on their side?
Marie Sarantakis 12:47
I think everyone can benefit from one certainly now, you know, it may not be an option, right? Because I understand that everybody's financial situation is different. And the more people you have working on a case, the more expensive things tend to get. But on the flip side, again, a divorce coach could save you potentially 1000s of dollars. Wow, I'm gonna have
Ron Bockstahler 13:07
to look, that's a whole nother world for me. So you're working with other family law attorneys, as they might be the attorney in a case, but you might be the coach in the case?
Marie Sarantakis 13:14
Correct? Exactly. You know, and sometimes what we work on is helping people communicate better. Maybe they just are so used to speaking to each other in such a derogatory and hostile manner, that it's really creating more and more issues in the case. So sometimes it can be that simple. I'm also parenting coordinator. So I help parents work together to put their kids best interests first, above their own above the litigation. And when we see a conflict, let's say maybe outside of a traditional divorce case that's pending, sometimes parenting coordinators are assigned to couples in order to help them afterwards sometimes even during the litigation, if need be
Ron Bockstahler 13:55
centrally. So that's a dri COAs separate LLC from the law practice. Now, how big is that? I mean, how big how many clients you taking on on your coaching side on an annual basis? You know,
Marie Sarantakis 14:06
it always varies. That's hard to say, because it's always different, right. And part of it is, you know, basically, I'm working so much with my law practice as well, that I have to be careful the volume of clients that I take on in both businesses. So I do very careful screenings before I accept any clients for either business, because I want to make sure that these are people who would benefit from my services and walk away feeling that I actually helped them because sometimes it may not be a good fit. And I think those initial meetings, those initial consultations are absolutely critical to make sure that everybody's on the same page and has the same expectations. Oh,
Ron Bockstahler 14:45
you really don't sleep?
Marie Sarantakis 14:47
Correct. I told you
Ron Bockstahler 14:49
where you're a frequent lecturer. You're an author in the legal community. You I mean, you're doing a lot of engagements. You're out there as an expert, talking to people helping other attorneys helping your clients. Yeah, you're putting a lot in this hole. and your rising star Thompson router Super Lawyers had you as a rising star you were named the top 10 family law attorneys under 40 in Illinois. Very impressive.
Marie Sarantakis 15:08
Thank you very much.
Ron Bockstahler 15:10
Thank you back. Let's go back to the book because I loved the book. It was so educational. For me, I want to talk a little bit about co parenting with the narc give us a few tips.
Marie Sarantakis 15:17
Sure. So you want to keep very accurate and detailed records when it comes to your spouse's behavior. So what you tend to find is narcissists want to act like they're the super parent, they're what I call often the Disney World parent, right? They're going to take kids on the trip, buy him a puppy, give them ice cream for dinner, and they're going to try to win the kids over to their side. And then you find when they start to feel they're getting a strategic advantage in the divorce case, or the efforts are no longer worth it, they really kind of pushed the kids aside, and you know, maybe ice cream for dinner Disneyland and a puppy isn't what's in the kids best interest, you know. So a lot of times their behavior comes from a very selfish place, and being very self interested in not putting the kids first. So you want to make very careful records, because while they act as though they're the perfect parent, you'll find that they slip up a lot. So for example, they may fight you to get all this parenting time, and they want to be this super parent. But then once what they they actually get it, they don't exercise this time. And they say, Oh no, you watch the kids, oh, sorry, I can't, oh, I'm going on a trip, oh, I've got a business meeting. So if that parent isn't actually following the parenting time schedule that they wanted, so desperately during the pendency of the case, document that because you may be able to go to court and change it at a later time, if they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing.
Ron Bockstahler 16:43
Wow, I gonna have to after the show, I have to thank my wife for being such a perfect mom and wife. Absolutely. This is interesting. Tell me about your law for a little bit. I mean, are you you're doing so much, I've got to think you've integrated technologies into your law firm, to keep up with everything,
Marie Sarantakis 17:00
very much. So. So zoom has been a wonderful blessing, you know, it's made everything so much more efficient. Most of the counties that we currently practice in, are using zoom for a majority of court appearances, they're still the occasional trial or hearing that is in person. But you know, we're saving our clients so much time and money by being able to hop onto the computer, and really cut to the chase. You know, in the old days, for example, I would have to one drive to the courthouse, so there was that travel time, then I would have to if I was in Chicago park downtown, so now I'm paying for parking garage, then I would you know, let's say go to the Daley center, you know, wait a little bit to get up to the elevators get to the floor, I need to go to maybe wait in front of 40 people to have my case get hurt. So in order to talk to the judge for maybe even 10 minutes, there would be substantial amount of prep time that went into that behind the scenes. Now, when we have our scheduled time to appear in front of the court, we log into the Zoom, the judges there were there, we say our part, and then we log off. So it really does save an inordinate amount of time.
Ron Bockstahler 18:12
So I mentioned I think the practice of law is changing drastically, especially with the pandemic and people realize that they can practice from anywhere. And clients aren't saying, Hey, I'm going to come into your office like they used to
Marie Sarantakis 18:24
write, I would say at this point, you know, I've not met a majority of my clients, which if you would have told me that was the case. Three years ago, I would have said, that's impossible. How can that be people want to meet their attorneys, they want to know their attorneys. But what I found is we're really able to replicate so much through telephone and through zoom, that it really does feel like you get to know them. And you know, like if clients say to me, they want to meet in person. I'm happy to do that. But I think there's such a benefit on both sides. I rarely have that be the case. Occasionally I'll have a client, who isn't that tech savvy, who may say to me, Look, if we're going to hearing or proving up, which means concluding a case? Can I come into your office and do the zoom there? Can you help me out with that part? Because I don't want to miss my court appearance. But a majority of everything we do is all remote?
Ron Bockstahler 19:17
Or what happens when the courts open back up? Do you foresee I'm going to trials? I imagine you're gonna go back in person, but I don't know. What else do you see going back in person, if anything?
Marie Sarantakis 19:26
Sure. Well, I certainly hope it doesn't for the reasons that I stated. But you know, it's certainly a possibility. And I think we're also going to see some sort of element that there's always going to be a remote part of this. I don't think we can unlearn the things that we did these last couple of years. And it's been such a fantastic learning experience and efficiency. That for example, we have these routine court appearances called statuses and statuses are where we report to the court what's going on in a case what we're working On maybe what the problems are and where we're going next. And the judge then decides what to do with the case moving forward. So statuses, you know, that's not necessarily something where judges making a ruling or making a decision, they just want to hear an update from the attorneys. So for things like statuses, I would imagine a lot of counties are going to continue to do those remotely, because why not? They seem to be working very well that way. But I could see how there are certain times where maybe credibility is an issue or technology could be an issue where if something is being decided that day, the judge may want to hear from the parties and see them in person to make a judgement,
Ron Bockstahler 20:42
which would make sense and they would have, obviously, they got the ability to do that. So we're gonna have a meeting in person. It's interesting, because are we looking at a difference in genres, age differences, the way people are looking at how things are going to emerge after this pandemic? You know, it's
Marie Sarantakis 20:57
interesting, in the very beginning, I would say there may have been initial reluctance to older attorneys on Zoom. But I'm finding that's very much changed over the last few months, everybody's gotten used to it. So I think that learning curve is behind us. And everybody can appreciate how nice this has become even the people that initially wanted to go back in person, and missed maybe that camaraderie and that human element of going to court. You know, I think we all became a little spoiled and saying, Wow, I don't know if we really miss sitting in traffic that badly. Graphics just getting worse.
Ron Bockstahler 21:34
so many people don't want to take public transportation. I arrived in Chicago, I would say two weeks ago, last time I was in Chicago, and I parked it on like the 14th floor of the garage, they can what's going on? Wasn't this busy pre pandemic?
Marie Sarantakis 21:47
Right now, it's definitely picking back up again, people are out there, people are doing things.
Ron Bockstahler 21:54
You do a lot of networking, but where else are you getting clients from?
Marie Sarantakis 21:58
A majority of my clients all come from referrals. So it's either a previous client that I had was satisfied with my services, and they've told a relative a family member or a friend, or referrals from other attorneys. So that's really the main thrust of where almost all my business comes from. I mean, sure, we get calls from people, you know, Google, maybe reading the book, whatever. And it may or may not be the right fit, right. But I think the people that are referred to me from someone else, they know a lot about me going into it. So by the time they call me, they know they need my services, and they know what they want. It's interesting.
Ron Bockstahler 22:34
I had Michael Dylon on the show recently, and Michael helps law attorneys write books. And it was ironic because I know you I think I asked you and you didn't work with him you did your book on your own. But how often, you know, in his, I guess his pitch would be when you have a happy client, you just finished a divorce, you hand them three books instead of a business card and say, if you got a friend going through difficult times, haven't read my book. Is that a legitimate scenario for you?
Marie Sarantakis 23:00
I like that idea. Oh, absolutely. I think that's a great thing to do. Because, you know, it's all about connections and relationships, and you want to be able to help people, and what a tangible way to hand off a case and that clients going to remember you and what you did, and maybe help someone else moving forward.
Ron Bockstahler 23:21
Well, I gotta tell you, when I first talked to you, and then you'd mentioned your book, actually went to your website now that I think about it. And it's one of the first things I sent seen on your website, I immediately ordered your book. Because, yeah, just the title. I said, I've got to read this book, I just I know nothing about narcissism. But it just drew me in saying, okay, she's an expert in this. If someone's going through a difficult divorce, there's a good chance there's a narcissist on one side of them. One side of the divorce, I would say I need to get Marie involved. That's the first thing that went through my mind. And I
Marie Sarantakis 23:53
do think it's very important that attorneys try to distinguish themselves in some particular way, right? We all have our strengths. We all have our specialties, the things that we deal with more often than others. And whatever those things are, it's important to have those things be known because again, just like I said it earlier, it's important that you find the right fit between attorney and client, you can have a wonderful client and a wonderful attorney doesn't mean they should necessarily work together. There's that human element that is so critical that you've got to make sure that their personalities and their goals align.
Ron Bockstahler 24:28
Right. It's easy to see why you are a rising star and why you've got so many accolades out there talking to you is just very easy to talk to you. So I am, like I said, super happy. Got a chance to have you on the show. I want to give you a last chance, what would you like words or anything you want to leave our audience with?
Marie Sarantakis 24:45
Well, I just want to thank you for the opportunity to be on your program. I think you have an excellent show and it helps so many people so thank you for doing what you do.
Ron Bockstahler 24:54
Absolutely. I appreciate that. Best way for our listeners to contact you
Marie Sarantakis 24:59
Sure. They can call my office my law firm at 630-796-0000. Or they can visit my law firm website, Sarah and Takus, law.com sar, A and T. AK is law calm,
Ron Bockstahler 25:18
and how to divorce a narcissist. And when you could find the book on Amazon, you can go to Marie's website and order. I think you order through Amazon when you go to your website, is that correct?
Marie Sarantakis 25:27
Correct? Yes, yeah. It's also available Barnes and Noble and other major retailers that sell
Ron Bockstahler 25:33
I highly recommend if you're an attorney, and you've got clients that might be going through, or you might be going through divorce, referred to Marie and definitely get the book, read the book and understand things that are in it. I think it's enlightening. Marie, thank you so much for joining us on the show today. It's been wonderful. I wish you all the best going forward. I think I'm going to I think we'll hear your name a lot over the next 20 or 30 years in the practice of law. So I'm glad I got you on the show early.
Marie Sarantakis 25:57
Thank you so much, Ron. It's a pleasure to be with you.
Ron Bockstahler 26:00
Thank you, everyone. Have a great evening. We'll see or good, great day and we'll talk to you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai