Take Control Blog

It’s Your Deal — Own It

The other day, I was having coffee with Joe Cardona. A good friend, Joe is an independent film maker and a really sharp guy. Joe also happens to be a divorced dad, as I am. Our “cafecito” lead us into an interesting conversation about law, divorce and business.

Joes made the point that good business people negotiate their own deals. With a deal framework done, they give it to an attorney. The attorney’s job is to mirror the deal in a good contract. This put me to think of the circus surrounding LeBron James.

Too often I hear clients or friends say, “My attorney got me a great deal. I got everything that I wanted from my ex-spouse. I won!” What does everything actually mean? How does anyone know if they got everything or if they left money on the table? How can victory be claimed?

The only reason we know that LeBron—or any other professional athlete for that fact—got “everything” is because there is full disclosure. To nauseous detail, ESPN makes sure we know what a good deal is. And professional associations, like the NBA, have guidelines and rules that are followed when structuring an athlete’s contract.

This is not the case with divorce. Yes, there is law and there are statutes and guidelines. But many aspects of a divorce are negotiable. To me, divorce is possibly the biggest negotiation of anyone’s life. Still, most people approach the negotiation from a fragile emotional state. And worse yet, they enter divorce uninformed and uneducated. So what do they do? They let their attorney negotiate the deal for them.

When your divorce is over, your attorney will go on to represent other clients. Your divorce will be but faint memory to him or her. But the divorce will be with you for the rest of your life. Trust me; there will hardly be a day, week or month that you won’t think about it.

Now back to Joe’s point. Your divorce is your deal—own it. And you own it by being an informed and educated client that directs the actions of your legal counsel. Sure, you must listen to the advice of your attorney and the guidance for which you are paying a good penny. But you don’t have to do what your attorney says nor take the first deal on the table. Without being a pain in the rear or offensive, you can negotiate the best deal for you. And the key point here is: what “best” means to you; not your friends, family or attorney.

In business, one never approaches a key negotiation misinformed and wanting it so bad that one can taste it. Why not? Because you will end up with a terrible deal. So why should the biggest negotiation of your life be any different?

Get educated on the process and business of divorce. No matter the circumstances leading up to the divorce, check your emotions at the door. Have an objective and a plan. Be clear as to what you want; what you are willing to give away; and what is non-negotiable. And best is not always about dollars and cents.

Remember the discount clothing retailer Syms? The company slogan was, “An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer.” Ask any good family law attorney, and they will tell you the same thing. An educated and informed client will make the divorce process much easier, faster and less costly in the long run.