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My Kingdom for a Horse!

In Shakespeare's play, Richard III, the title character's horse dies in battle. King Richard cries out, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse."

I've read some interpretations that King Richard III is lamenting that he will lose his kingdom because of the loss of his horse. But for his horse, the battle would have been won and his kingdom would have been preserved.

Another interpretation I've read is that King Richard III is offering to give up his kingdom to anyone who can provide him a horse. His immediate need has blinded him to the bigger picture. Why would he give up his kingdom for a horse when the point of winning the battle was to keep his kingdom? That's a bad deal.

Recently, I was sitting in court, waiting to argue a hearing for my client. While I waited, the judge handled the uncontested matters first. An unrepresented man went before the judge and confirmed a terribly unfair agreement. He agreed to give his wife a lump sum payment equal to half of the equity in his house even though he alone owned the house and had paid the house off before the marriage. He also agreed to pay to his wife alimony for ten years even though the two of them had only been married for three years. His wife, as you may have already guessed, was represented by an attorney, the attorney who drafted the agreement.

This unrepresented man lost half of the equity in a home that could have been clearly argued to be his premarital property. In other words, there was a strong argument that he didn't owe her anything out of that house. Nothing. Zip. Nada. This unrepresented man agreed to pay his soon-to-be ex-wife alimony for 120 months when they had only been married for 36. Georgia typically doesn't even award any alimony unless the parties have been married for a fair bit of time. Three years is rarely a fair bit of time.

My chin dropped. I couldn't believe it. The judge asked the unrepresented man if he was sure he wanted this deal, but the man said he wanted to proceed with the agreement. Half his kingdom for a horse.

I imagine that this unrepresented man, who signed away much of his wealth, did not want to spend the relatively small sum to hire an attorney. He only considered his immediate desire: to save money on attorney's fees. He lost much more in the long run (perhaps $100,000 or more) because he failed to see the bigger picture.

It is wise to seek the advice of an attorney to make sure that your rights are protected. Make sure you make a good deal. Do not give up your kingdom for a horse.

Jennifer McCall

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