Thomas Gray penned “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise” in his poem Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, written in 1742. Today this phrase has become synonymous with apathy and a carefree attitude. In my mind it takes its place with classics such as, “it’s only a lot of reading if you do it,” or “it only takes a minute if you wait to the last minute.” Each of the phrases represents what I call a lack of situational awareness.
Situational awareness is exactly what it suggests which is being cognizant of what is happening in one’s environment. We all know people who we may have labelled as “clueless,” and we are all at one time or another blindsided by an event. What often emerges in the aftermath is that indicators of the event were all around but were not interpreted as such. We only need to look at the events surrounding 9/11 to realize this is often true. What then is the application of what I have discussed thus far? Quite simply, it is the need we all have to be situationally aware in both our personal and professional lives. Because we live in an electronic age we are vulnerable if we are not constantly interpreting what is happening around us. For example, I have rarely ever helped a client in a divorce, child custody, or for that matter, a civil action, in which the person was not somewhat aware of the core events leading up to the moment when everything came to a head. What I have found is that often a wife, husband or business partner ignored the signs and was caught off guard only to find that what they had thought to be true was not. All too often I will have someone come to me after an event, and I will find that any assets there might have been have been dissipated. Consequently, we all have a need to be situationally aware. Most people, whether in a family or business relationship, know when things change. When they do, you have a responsibility to up your game. What I mean by this is that you have to start doing the math. If your spouse’s spending habits or personal habits change it is generally for a reason. It does not necessarily mean something bad is happening, but there is a reason. The same is true in business relationships. At such times you have to start paying attention. Review the bank accounts, look for changes, determine if assets are being moved, and ask smart questions if they are. In multiple cases I have seen a spouse plan their escape from a marriage, and they cheated their partner in a number of ways. As I noted above, if you are blind to what is happening, it is all too easy for one partner to move assets if the other is not paying attention. Do not ignore reality; ignorance is not bliss. Yesterday, I had a husband call me about getting a divorce. From the tenor of our conversation it was pretty apparent in his mind that everything the couple owned was his. I wondered after the call whether his spouse was aware of what was happening. I am sure the signs are present, but I wonder if she is paying attention. After the fact it is possible to recover assets, but it is much harder than it has to be. Don’t be caught short. Get advice early and act as the situation demands. Contact us if we can help.