We meet with a lot of clients who are just beginning to think about divorce and their divorce goals. Some of our clients are the ones seeking to end the marriage, and some of them are responding to a spouse’s announcement that the marriage is over. Whatever the case, there is usually one spouse is who is “emotionally” ahead of the other in terms of being prepared.
As you may have heard at one time or another, there is little you can do to control someone else’s behavior, and this may be true. However, you can help yourself do better through the separation and divorce process by clarifying your own goals and what you want to get out of the divorce process. You may have some general ideas – “I want custody of the kids” or “I want to keep the house” – but do you have more specific issues in mind? This is the time to think about them.
What are my goals and priorities in my divorce?
We understand that for many people, even the thought of divorce can make it difficult to identify your long-term goals. However, some find it helpful to break the most important issues down into a few categories to help them prioritize:
- Children. Consider the needs of your children and their happiness, relationships with friends and family, and schooling. Will a divorce necessitate moving to a new school district? Can you and your spouse find a way to split with the least amount of conflict to your children? Do you have an idea of child custody or parenting plans?
- Finances. What is your financial picture? What will it look like post-divorce? Will you need alimony or be required to pay it? How about child support? Health insurance? These are all issues you’ll need to address in divorce proceedings, so ensure you have an accurate picture of your separate and marital assets.
- Emotional and personal. Do you want to negotiate your divorce with as little conflict as possible? Do you and your spouse need time to process before jumping in? Are you able to work with a mediator first? Is it important that you and your ex-spouse are able to communicate amicably post-divorce? The way you handle the process makes all the difference.
Now that you have a general idea of long-term goals, write them down and look them over. What are your first, second, and third priorities? Do you have more? Share these with your family law attorney and return to them over the course of your divorce process – have they changed? If so, that’s perfectly fine, but ensure you edit your list and goals and, above all, communicate that to your attorneys.
Reality check: are my divorce goals reasonable?
Make sure your goals are relatively practical. Is your goal to get your spouse back? Experience tells us that if you have a spouse who is disengaged and already moved out, this is not a realistic goal. Consider talking with a mental health professional, your most trusted and honest friends, and your attorneys about whether each goal on your list is within your reach. There is nothing more frustrating than having an impossible goal.
Further, accept that there are limits. When you plan for divorce, you have to keep in mind that you are leaving a marriage where there are two people. There will have to be some compromise. Although it may be on the top of your wish list, it is usually not the case that you will get all of the money, the entire house, custody of your children all the time, and every last cent in the marital retirement accounts.
Ask your lawyer if your goals make sense in relation to your personal circumstances. If your attorney tells you they are not, be open to that response. Feel free to ask questions, recalibrate your goals in light of the responses you get, but remember to always keep moving forward.
Are your goals SMART?
By SMART, we mean the S.M.A.R.T. way of achieving goals and objectives as defined by executives George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham:
Although commonly used in business, SMART goals are beneficial in just about every area of life, including divorce (and marriage) planning.
How do I stay on track with my priorities during my divorce?
Once you have the list, keep it nearby and in mind and put it to use as a guide. Is one of your goals to have less conflict with your spouse? Great! Don’t take the bait if they send you a “nastygram” or attempt to get a rise out of you. Consider whether the correspondence requires a response at all, whether you should share it with your attorney, and whether you need to take a minute (or a day) before you shoot off a response.
Understanding your priorities and sticking to them can help reduce conflict by staying on track and on-point with your spouse and with your attorney.
If you are preparing for divorce, talk to the Bethesda family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. today. We advocate for the best interests of you and your family, setting you on the right path toward a brand-new future. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys by calling 443-917-3347 or reaching out to us through our contact form today. As well as Bethesda, we maintain offices in Fulton, Columbia, and Rockville.