Happiness Solved with Sandee Sgarlata. In this episode, Sandee interviews Charlotte Christian. Charlotte Christian - Founder and Owner of Charlotte Christian Law, one of the fastest-growing family law firms in the United States and the largest...
Happiness Solved with Sandee Sgarlata. In this episode, Sandee interviews Charlotte Christian. Charlotte Christian - Founder and Owner of Charlotte Christian Law, one of the fastest-growing family law firms in the United States and the largest female-owned family law firm in the country. Over the past two years, Charlotte has become a prominent figurehead in the national family law industry and has devoted her career to defending the rights of individuals undergoing complex separation, divorce and custody processes. Her firm has branches all over the United States. She is changing the ways and concepts of female lawyers in this country!
Connect with Charlotte: https://www.charlottechristianlaw.com
Connect with Sandee www.sandeesgarlata.com
This is happiness solved with America's happiness. Coach Sandee Sgarlata.
Sandee Sgarlata 00:00:21
Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me today. I'm so happy you're here. I'm Sandee Sgarlata. I was born in Virginia Beach and raised in the Baltimore Annapolis area and had very humble and tragic beginnings. And as a result, my life was a hot mess. Thankfully, 33 years ago, I got my act together, and since that time, I have dedicated my life to serving others and raising awareness that no matter what you've been through, you can choose happiness and live the life of your dreams. Happiness solved is dedicated to giving you content that is empowering, motivational, inspirational, and, of course, a dose of happiness. It's my way to give back to the world and share other people's stories. This thing called life can be challenging, and my guests share their amazing stories, wisdom, and life lessons that demonstrate anyone can choose happiness. You see, happiness is a choice, and the choice is yours. Today's episode is amazing, and I am so grateful for you. Thank you for listening, and don't forget to leave a review and follow me on social media at coach Sandee Sgarlata. Enjoy the show. Charlotte Christian, it's such a privilege and an honor to be having you as a guest today on my podcast. Thank you so much for joining us.
Charlotte Christian 00:01:42
Thank you so much for having me. It's my pleasure and honor to be on your podcast.
Oh, I love your accent. Where are you located?
Well, my headquarters is in Alabama, and I grew up in Alabama, so I have a bit of a southern accent.
Alabama accent. I kind of knew it was Alabama, but after you're on this planet long enough, you learn not to make assumptions.
Yes, there was a time where I tried to work through that, and I have such a southern accent, but then I was told, don't do that. Just be yourself. And it is what it is, and people relate, so I don't work on it so much anymore.
It's funny. My senior year of high school, we moved to northwestern Pennsylvania, and they called me the southern girl. At the time, I was from Maryland. Now I'm in Virginia, so I've been in that area my whole life, but they thought I had a southern accent, and I'm like, okay, whatever. All right, Charlotte, so you are the founder and owner of Charlotte Christian law, one of the fastest growing family law firms in the United States and the largest female owned family law firm in the country. That is incredible. And I love that you're devoting your time to defending the rights of individuals undergoing complex separation, divorce, and custody processes, and that can be a real nasty thing.
It is. People, when they come to us, are just at the worst place in their life. And besides death, divorce, they say it's sometimes worse than death because the person still remains on earth. We come into people's lives when they're at their worst place. We're blessed with our firm. We feel really good about what we've got built and and feel very fortunate to have a large presence in the US.
Well, and just to have one of the largest women owned law firms is quite an accomplishment. Because even though we're 2023, as, you know, as women, we're still fighting our way and trying to prove ourselves and.
All of that, you know, we do. And it's interesting, I hear so often that you're a female and a lot of females don't do this. I'm seeing more females used to in the personal injury space, for example. You didn't see many females, but I'm starting to see more females. But I try to surround myself with other female business owners so that like minded people can think alike and can work together and collaborate. But just getting into the space is difficult, and it is 2023, but I think there's still an assumption there that it's a men's world, and we certainly don't try to be equal to what men do. We try to be the best at what we do. So try to bring that out and put that out in the world. And in doing that, I just think you make the world a better place.
No kidding. So I'm curious because you're the first lawyer that I've had on my show that specializes in family law. I don't recall having any other lawyers. I may have. I've interviewed a lot of people in the past couple of years.
Yes, you have.
I'm curious because, like you said, it's one of the worst things you can go through. I went through a divorce, thankfully. It wasn't awful at all. It was very amicable. And I divorced a litigating attorney. Okay. So I was prepared for the worst today, he and I and on the.
Bar and held on, right?
Yeah, right. Today he and I are best friends. We have one son together. We're like brother and sister. I just saw him this morning. I had to pick something up for my son, and we gave each other a hug and love you. Love you. And it's great because we were married for 21 years. I met him when I was 21 years old. And you want to have that great relationship, but unfortunately, not many people can get to that point. So what I'm curious about do you find that you're also like a counselor to some of these women or couples because they probably come in and they could be devastated, maybe they've been cheated on. Whatever the circumstances, I would imagine that they kind of dump on you as well. Right?
It is. And, you know, throughout the client journey, there's so many different pieces and so many different steps that you have to take it along the way. So, for example, when somebody comes in, we know most of the time they're going to be angry because you're probably not getting a divorce unless there's some anger there or you weren't able to work together. So there's a lot of anger. So we have to approach that with a protective feeling and a protective position. But then as we move along and as time moves along, fortunately, we're able to oftentimes get people to see what you're saying. At the end of the day, we're going to do what's best for you and what you want done. So that may be fighting tooth and nail, but what we see best when it comes out on the other end of this is that when you have somebody who has the emotional intelligence to listen and to understand that if you've made a child together especially you can divorce this person all day long. But you're going to be involved in this person's life as long as you're alive for this child's life. Because you're going to have so many instances. You're going to have graduations, you're going to have weddings, birthdays, babies being born. You're going to have so much going on that you've got to have some kind of a connection with a person. And if you don't, you're not hurting that person, you're hurting your child. So at the end of the day, you've got to realize that what you just explained here, that you and your husband were able to hug each other and be like siblings, I don't know that you are aware of what that does for your son, because he sees that, and he feels that, and it's just so much better. We can't live with a person, or we may be upset because the person left us for somebody else and maybe hurt, but if you try to use your children as a weapon or if you just can't let that anger go, it's going to hurt you and it's going to hurt the child. It's not going to hurt the other party because they're probably not thinking about you anyway.
Exactly. And that's such a good point. And I do recognize what it does for my son, and I'm so grateful that I have been on my personal development journey for 33 years. Forgiveness is a part of my being. It's a part of my everyday existence. And I had to forgive him, and he had to forgive me as well. It takes two. It wasn't just his fault. It was both of us. It's a two way street. And fortunately, he was at a point in his life where he could look past everything and be like, you know what? We can't be together, and yet we can be really great parents to our he was my miracle baby. Like I was told I'd never have children. And one day we actually agreed to separate. We agreed to separate. It was in the year 2000. Early in the year 2000, we agreed to separate. And all of a sudden I realized my period was late and I was pregnant with my son.
Wow. Maybe it was.
And we stayed yeah, we stayed together for another ten years because I felt like I'm very, very spiritual, and I felt like, okay, this is a sign that we're not meant to be divorced yet. And we tried. We tried very hard. And the thing is that together we had five pregnancies and one child. So we went through a lot together, and for anybody who's listening out there, there's something to be said for like you said, it all comes down to forgiveness. I didn't forgive him for him or for my child. I forgave it for me.
Don't you feel like, Sandy, that along the way that especially the older you get and the more that you learn that, you learn that forgiving people when they don't deserve forgiveness helps you so much? I think that if I get really frustrated with somebody or I feel like somebody's wronged me or my family, it's very difficult to do. But I try to say, and I try to convey this to people we work with and to my team by saying, at the end of the day, if you hold on to that, you're just putting yourself through pain. So you've got to be willing to let go of that. And you know what? Even though it's hard, if you say for that person to behave this way for him, or for her to behave the way that he or she is behaving, something has to be majorly wrong with their situation. They've got to have pain themselves. They've got to be in such a bad place in life. And if you can just find the strength to just say, they've got something that I can't fix, they've got something that I can't control, but what I can control is the way I feel about it, the way I react to it, and I'm going to forgive them. That takes a lot of work to be able to get to that place. But I think that's the way to happiness for all of us long term is that when we're able to say that and when we're actually able to mean it and to let it go.
Yeah. So how do you advise some of your clients? Because I always think of one of my good friends, and right when my ex and I, the first time that we had separated, I had a friend who had such a horrible divorce that both of her children were suicidal. The children were dragged through it. They sold their house and split the money 50 50 and gave it all to lawyers. It was $700,000 that went to lawyers fees. It dragged out for four or five years. And that was why I was, like, holding on, thinking, oh, no, what am I about to get myself into? What do you say to somebody when they're so stubborn and they refuse to bend? They refuse to give in at all? And you see so many people, especially when there's children around them. How do you handle that with your clients? Because that's the worst part about divorce.
It's a process. It's taking them through the journey. So that's why it's so important that when you do hire a lawyer, that you hire someone who we teach our entire legal team that the way that we can represent a client is to understand their why. Much like Simon Sinnick teaches, until you understand their why, you can't progress. So we have to understand the client's why. And in doing that, I believe that our skill set is being able to take their why and get to really know the client and then be able to help them come to that place. Now, are we always successful? No. I had somebody spend $35,000 fighting over an iron skillet that wasn't even from their family. It wasn't like some heirloom that they got from their grandmother or their aunt or cousin. It was an iron skillet and they spent $35,000 for it.
Go buy a new one. Exactly.
Buy a car to do something. But it's hard. I'm saying that to say that we don't always get people to be where we would like for them to be or people to be able to make the decision that we believe may be better for them ultimately. But it's just a process working through, trying to make people understand that it's difficult. A divorce will last for a year, and in a year's time, it's hard to replace and help people fill their soul back up to get to where they need to be. But we work as hard as we can. We try to talk to our clients every week so that we can understand that why and we can help them along the way. But my thing is just making sure we listen, because if you don't listen, you can't you can't help that person. We ask for the client to do the same back to us. Take our experience. We represent thousands of people. So we hear your story is no different. People call us all the time, or they'll come in and they'll say, I know you've never heard this before. Well, chances are pretty good. We probably have. I mean, there's very few stories, I think, that are new stories. It's just a different person in a different place. But listen to your lawyer. Listen to us. We do our best to guide somebody to a better place.
Yeah, because really, like you were saying before, what is your why at the end of the day and really keeping the innocent bystandards out of the picture, out of the scenario, which is always the children.
Yeah, I was thinking about that when you said talking about your friend. I was thinking that her children were essentially cut in half because if they were drugged into it, they were cut in half.
I know somebody now who was going through a divorce and her husband cheated on her, in a sense, remarried the person he cheated with, and she's so bitter and angry that it hurts her children and she can't see it. So when she doesn't encourage them to be happy at dad, she tries to make them feel guilty for going to Dads. And she says negative stuff about dad in front of them. And I just cringe because I know what it's doing to those kids. And what we see often is that your children may come around and tell you what you want to hear, or they may have a skewed opinion based on what you say. But ultimately, when they grow up, kids aren't dumb. They see if they're at Dad's house and dad truly cares about them, and they know that it's between mom and dad, kids aren't going to be angry nine times out of ten, if they're younger because dad cheated on you, they're involved with themselves. They may be, like, aggravated a little bit, or they may be like, I can't believe my dad did that. But no matter how much your kids love you, they also love the other parent. So when you're so negative about the other parent and you make the kids feel bad, I think oftentimes kids come back around, and when they grow up, there's a division between the parent who was ugly about the parent and the kids, because kids grow up and see that. So we try to encourage people to recognize that you may get a little personal satisfaction if you make little Blake mad at his dad, but it's not going to last long term.
And let me just tell you, your children will never forget that, and they will hold it against you someday, and it is going to come out, and you will be on your knees praying that your children will forgive you. Because here's what I want to say as a divorced woman, and who's now happily remarried, thankfully, congratulations. Oh, thank you. Children only have one childhood, and when you take that away from it, they never get it back. And they deserve to be left out of that bitterness that two people have and not make it about them, because it's just really sad that they only have one shot at being a kid, and please don't take it from them.
And if you take it from them, you don't realize that you necessarily just took their childhood from them. You affected their entire lives. Because we see people who are 50, 60 and 70 living with childhood trauma of what their parents put them through. I beg people, do not do this to your child. It's an instantaneous, instant gratification for a parent to feel good because they make their child mad at the other parent. Or if they say something negative about the other parent, but that's so temporary. And just that little scar that you put in his or her your child's head, those scars will continue to grow and the scar will become so thick. It's just that trying to get people to understand that is probably the most important thing that we do.
Yeah. And now my son is 22. He's a senior in college. And to this day still, I'm like, oh, well, your father and I, we need to split that. Can you remind him? He's like, can you just do it, mom? He's like, I don't want to get involved in all that. I'm like, oh, my God, you're right. I'm sorry. Yes. And he's very aware, and he just says, can you just, mom, you deal with that. I'm not getting in between this. And he's smart enough to know that, and I appreciate him for that, sticking up for himself. And like, you know what, mom? That doesn't feel right for me. Oh, I'm sorry. You're right. And I only said it just because I'm busy. I'm like, no, I got you, babe. It's all good.
We see it all the time. Parents sending notes with the kids to the other parent or tell your dad or tell your mom, x, Y, or Z. And it's just such a bad place for the kid because just think about your parents. Would you go into the other parents said something negative, mom said to tell you that your girlfriend's ugly, or just something like that. I mean, it's just not for the kid to do. Let them be children.
Right? And for me, he knows that we've got such a great relationship, and it isn't about me trying to pull him in. It's just like oh, here. And he's like, I really don't want to be involved. I'm like, oh, I'm sorry. You're right. I wasn't thinking. Let's shift gears a minute because I do have a lot of entrepreneurs that listen to my podcast and a lot of women, especially, and a lot of women entrepreneurs and women there's a lot of women out there that are thinking of starting their own business. What business advice can you give a woman, especially in the beginning, because it's hard. It's hard starting a business, especially the first couple of years, what advice can you give to other women entrepreneurs to help them just stick it out? And is there any golden nuggets that you can drop? Absolutely.
I'll try. I think that the best advice that I can give somebody, especially somebody who's starting a business or female starting a business, is understand, determine and understand what your values are and then live those values and make every decision based on those values. And I say that because as you grow, assuming that you're wanting to grow a business, that you're wanting to employ people and become larger, all your decisions will be based on those values. So your job descriptions will include those values. Your interviews will include those values, and your hiring decisions will include those values. And if you start out without having those established, knowing what they mean and truly feeling good about your values, then you're going to really struggle because you're going to hire people who do not believe the way that you do. So it's so important to determine those values. We at my firm have values that I've held for a long time and everybody knows those values. Everybody talks to our clients about them. If somebody comes to me and needs a decision about something, I say we make decisions based on those values. We say, how does that relate to our values? Does it meet our values? And then we'll step through every one of them. And if we get to the end it doesn't meet any of them, then the decision is easy. But if you don't have a set of values, you're going to be like a ship without a rudder or so you're going to float around. I tell young people and people asking, what do I do to start a business? I say, define your values and make sure you live by those. And when I say values, I'm not meaning flowery words that you see up in corporations because I'll go into business and I do this just to see. Because I think this is a huge key for you to use when you're seeing a business. But if you walk into a business and you see their values written on the wall, ask the receptionist which one of the values are your favorite. And they're either going to know them and you know that you're in a business that is built correctly or they're going to say, values, what are you talking about? Or if you go on back to the back and the person there doesn't know their favorite value or know what their values are, then they're not a values built firm. And that's just so important at the end of the day. So that's where I would say definitely start. Determine what your values are.
I love it. That is such great advice. And then back to starting a business and keeping it going. So often you run into times where you're like, is it worth it? Do I keep it going? How do you keep your head in the game? Right? Because happiness is a mindset. Running a business takes a lot of mindset. Success is 80% mindset, right? 20% tactics. What advice can you give to a woman who feels, or any entrepreneur for that matter, to help keep their mindset in check, to keep them going, committed to their values?
I guess you could say there's so much to unpack there. But I would start by encouraging any young entrepreneur to read. And now then social media is so prevalent that you can go on TikTok. You can find information on TikTok about your subjects, you can go on YouTube, you can get so much information there. But at the end of the day, the more you educate yourself and the more you know, the better you're going to be with your mindset, and your mindset has to be going in that I can do anything I want. If you're a healthy, reasonably intelligent individual, and you don't even really have to be reasonably intelligent. You just have to have the drive, the desire, and the willingness to sacrifice. But I think the best business advice I got to learn to be a leader and a good CEO was from one of my business coaches who encouraged me to start reading, and he encouraged me to read a book a week, which was, of course, 52 a year. And I started doing that, and it's actually life changing. And you think, my goodness, that's a lot of time. If you've got children, your husband, you've got work, you've got so much to do. But just think, I don't watch TV very much. I mean, there's three or four shows. I'll save up and maybe watch them occasionally. But think what you're doing that you can replace with educating yourself and then really make a commitment. If you don't want to do 52, do one every two weeks and do half that amount. But I promise you that if you'll start that at the end of the year, you're going to see yourself in a much different place. But you're also going to have to know that there's so much truth to the saying that you are the five people you spend the most time with. So look to your people, look to your group and say, are these five people keeping me in the same place, or are these five people going to up level me? I'm not saying you're rid of your family, rid of your friends, but you've got to change your mindset with regard to your time. So if you're wanting to run a million dollar business, you need to be around people who have run a million dollar business. You need to find those people. You need to say, hey, can I have dinner with you once a week? Hey, can I spend time with you? Hey, can I come in your office? Can I be in your business? Can I just sort of let you be a mentor with me? What can I do? I heard something the other day. I think it was a podcast or something, and the question was, if you don't have a place at the table, serve the water. And I was like, that is so good. If you don't have a place at the table, serve the water and listen to the table. But change your time and put yourself around the five people that will take you to where you want to go, that will uplift you, will encourage you, and give you from their mindset. When you start hearing other people at different levels, you're going to ask questions and you're going to want to be at that level.
Yeah, I love that, because one of the big differences in everything that I'm doing that I made is just that, sure, I've got five friends, I've got five family members. But in my business world, I've got five of the most powerful people behind me that are helping me grow and expand my mind, my knowledge, my wisdom, everything. And that is such I was sitting here going, I'm counting them. I'm like, oh, yeah, I got five.
I've got one of my marketing guys. Actually, a couple of them are just they're just so bright. They're just really bright guys. My coach and his partner are really bright guys, and I call them just to listen to them or just to talk to them or say.
You handle this situation? Listen to me. How would you handle this situation? But just to be in the room working with them. When I'm around them, I say, let's just work together, because you see the way they work. You see the way they interact. You see the way they handle themselves when they go in a restaurant. You see what they order. You see how they handle the waiters. You just start seeing a different way to live, and that changes your mindset. So that's what I encourage you to do with putting yourself around five really good people who are where you want to go.
Oh, Charlotte, this was so incredible. Thank you so much. How can people learn more about you? Everything will be in the show notes, but go ahead and shout it out anyway. Yeah.
First off, thank you so much. I really enjoy your podcast and appreciate your audience and certainly hope to give value to as many people as I can. I own the law offices of Charlotte Christian Associates and we're a family law firm. And we have offices in Alabama, Chicago, Las Vegas, Houston, St. Louis and Miami and Fort Lauderdale. So if you're in any of those places, hit me up. Maybe I could chat with you and maybe share a coffee with you or something. But if I can help anybody, certainly feel free to reach out to us on the website, and I'd be more than happy to help any way I can.
Oh, Charlotte, thank you so much. You have so much wisdom to share, and I really appreciate the work that you do. You are one of the really good lawyers out there, right?
We try hard to be.
All right. Thank you so much.
I certainly hope that you enjoyed today's interview. Thank you so much for joining me. And as always, I hope that you and your family are healthy and safe and that your lives are filled with peace, joy, and happiness. Take care, everyone, and.