Gordon Gekko and the Art of Family Law

In 1987 Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Gordon Gekko, a wealthy, unscrupulous corporate raider in the movie Wall Street. In one memorable scene from the film, Gekko quotes a line from the ancient Chinese military treatise, Sun Tzu, The Art of War. In the film, Gekko tells a young stockbroker (played by Charlie Sheen) that:

“Every battle is won BEFORE it is fought”.   Sun Tzu Every Battle Quote

In the world of business, this famous quote often rings true. In the context of family law matters, especially contested family law matters, this quote also rings true. In any fight, or competitive contest, whether it is business, legal, sporting, or any other battle life throws our way, solid preparation and planning can often dictate the outcome.

Why am I writing about Sun Tzu  in a family law blog ?

Solid preparation is one key element to getting a good result in most family law matters. My goal is to prepare every matter as though it is going to trial. It is amazing how many family law issues can be settled without court intervention when the case is properly prepared. The need to engage in protracted litigation in family law matters can sometimes be avoided through meticulous preparation and having a sound legal strategy. Many of the battles in divorce and family law are won before they are fought. The key is to pick your battles, (and your counsel) wisely. I wrote about these issues in earlier posts on this blog.

Of course, human emotions can also play a role in family court. Some people insist on “scorching the earth” in search of what they perceive as justice. Some people insist on “making their spouse pay”, despite not having a sound legal reason not to settle, mediate, arbitrate, or collaborate and simply move on. Some people want their “day in court”, despite the unpredictable nature of litigation and the associated costs involved. Some people insist that the law is broken and that their sense of fairness should dictate the outcome of their family law matter.  This is not a recipe for success.

Don’t be like Gordon Gekko. Protect what could become your achilles heel. In family law matters, you should protect your legal rights, however greed is usually counterproductive in divorce proceedings. 

In the original 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko provides us with a memorable declaration that “greed is good”.  In the end, this mantra becomes his achilles heel, and he pays dearly for it. “Greed is good” is not usually a good mindset in family law matters. Clear thinking coupled with a sound legal strategy usually carries the day during a contentious divorce.

In many divorce and family law matters, greed is often bad. Greed by one (or both) parties can sometimes grind the divorce process to a slow crawl.  This is rarely, if ever, a good thing for the parties involved. You should be thinking about preserving your assets. When counsel fees and litigation costs start to approach the real value of the issue at stake, you need to take a step back and take an assessing view. Hopefully your counsel, therapist, coach and/or family member is helping you put things in perspective.

For example, some people mistakenly believe that upon divorce, they are entitled to much more of the marital estate than the facts of their case and the law will reasonably allow. Their expectations are wildly out of sync with statutory and decisional law. This is where getting assistance to start thinking in a logical manner along with hiring and working closely with the the right counsel becomes critical. Think about it.