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Soaring Lessons for the Divorcing Business Executive


In 1983, Thomas Knauff set a world record that stood untouched for two decades: Knauff went 1,023 miles from Point A to B and back in his glider (an "out-and-return" flight).

This record didn't just happen on its own.

Knauff's success as a competitive glider pilot required a number of factors, including preparation, experience, and confidence (but not overconfidence).

It so happens that the art and science of flying a glider is a good metaphor for the challenges someone like a C-level executive or shareholder faces in a divorce.

Lesson 1: Learn to Read the Clouds

Glider pilots must deal with the ups and downs of weather. They must become expert at reading the clouds and using the wind to their advantage. Some clouds have updrafts that will bear you aloft, while others have downdrafts that will cause you to lose altitude.

Human relationships also have natural ups and downs. As much as you understand that your business is affected by the ups and downs of market conditions - and that you must react to those market conditions to survive and thrive - you will stand to benefit by understanding that your spouse has his or her own story to tell. And you cannot control the story he or she chooses to tell.

Key take-away: If you face the prospect of divorce, understand that you will waste time and money fighting your spouse on minor issues. Rather, control what you can. Let go of the rest. This will help you conserve resources for the issues that truly matter to your livelihood, such as business ownership and partnership arrangements.

Lesson 2: Follow the Preflight Checklist

Pilots must follow a preflight checklist for safety prior to every flight. When Knauff broke that world record in 1983, surely he did the same preflight check he'd done on a thousand prior flights. As he embarked on his record flight, the preflight ritual likely held even greater importance to him.

Just as you should conserve resources for the issues that truly matter in a divorce (see lesson 1), thorough preparation will help you narrow your field of vision as to what those issues are.

Key take-away: As painful as the prospect of divorce can be, adequate preparation puts you in an optimal position for a successful outcome. This means carefully researching divorce attorneys and financial advisors before making your selection. It also means learning about your legal options, from Early Neutral Assessment to litigation. In other words, do your due diligence.

Lesson 3: Overconfidence Is a Killer

In aviation, it's said that one of the most dangerous times for a pilot is having logged 300 hours. At 300 hours, the pilot is no longer "new," and has gained a certain level of skill at controlling the aircraft. This can lead to overconfidence. Overconfidence in the sky can be fatal, especially for those who lack adequate experience, who haven't yet seen all that can be thrown at them.

In business, confidence is a defining characteristic of successful executives and entrepreneurs. Overconfidence generally is not. Those with the right level of confidence tend to possess thousands of hours of experience. For better or for worse, the same holds true in divorce. You simply do not "know" what will happen with the outcome until you've been through the process.

Key take-away: This lesson builds on the first two. In divorce, you must not allow powerful emotions to cloud your judgment. This will help you select the right strategy, one in which you'll be confident will succeed in achieving your objectives.

We Can Help You Select a Winning Strategy

As you may have guessed by now, representing clients facing divorce, as we do at Ciancio Ciancio Brown, P.C., is an art much like the art of soaring. There is more than one way of arriving at a winning strategy, but the approach always includes adequate preparation, experience, and confidence.

C-level executives, directors, shareholders and others who have been successful in business often have spouses with financial interests in business, real estate, and spousal support.

To consult with managing director Cyndy Ciancio* (one of Colorado's "Top 50 Women Attorneys" and "Top 100 Attorneys" for 2012-2015) or a member of her handpicked team of associates, call 303-416-5457.

*Ms. Ciancio is a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

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