January 3

How To Set Goals For Your Divorce [… And Why You Need To!]



divorce advice, divorce blog, divorce tips

When your marriage is ending, you’re usually not thinking about how to set goals for your divorce. Your primary focus is simply on surviving.

That’s natural.

Yet, one of the biggest mistakes people make in divorce is
NOT figuring out what they really want right from the start. They float through
their divorce in a daze. Then a few months after it’s over they’re angry that
they didn’t get what they wanted.

The problem is that, while they were going through their
divorce, they didn’t KNOW what they wanted. Or they kept changing their mind
about what they wanted. Or they wanted everything. They didn’t really get clear
about the few things that were truly important to them until AFTER their
divorce was over.

The problem is that hindsight is 20/20.

It’s easy to see what you should have done in your divorce
once the dust has settled. But the key to having a successful divorce (if there
is such a thing!) is to figure out what you want while you’re still in the
middle of the storm.

If you’re really smart, you’ll figure out your divorce goals
even before the storm begins. (Or, at least, you’ll set your goals as early on
as possible.)

The question is: How? How do you set goals for your divorce
when your head is spinning and your heart is shattered?

That’s a tough question. But before we can talk about how to
set goals for your divorce, we need to start by discussing why goal setting is
so important.

Woman hiker standing on a mountain top with the quote: This one step- choosing a goal and sticking to it - changes everything. How to Set Goals for Your Divorce.

Why You Need to Set Goals for Your Divorce

As gut-wrenching and world-changing as divorce can be, it’s
still a part of life. Fundamentally, it works the same way most other parts of
life work.

Before you can get anywhere, you need to know where you’re
going. As the Cheshire Cat explained to Alice in Wonderland:

road do I take?” asked Alice.

                        “Where do you want to go?” replied
the Cheshire Cat.

don’t know,” Alice answered.

                        “Then it doesn’t matter.”

you don’t care where you end up, then setting goals for your divorce doesn’t
matter. But if you DO care, not just about your divorce, but about your life
after divorce, then setting goals for your divorce is absolutely essential.

super clear about what you want in your divorce keeps you from getting sucked
into a lot of pointless drama about stuff that doesn’t matter. When you KNOW what
you want, you can develop a strategy and a plan for getting it.

the other hand, if you’re confused, if you don’t know what you want, you’re
much more likely to spin in circles. You’ll worry about everything, accomplish
nothing, and drive yourself crazy in the process.

why setting goals for your divorce matters.

Setting goals isn’t the only thing that matters in your divorce. Having the right checklist is just as important!


Send me My FREE Divorce Checklist

The Best Divorce Goals are SMART

having any goals is arguably better than having no goals, not all goals are
created equal. If you want to have the best chance of achieving your divorce
goals they need to be SMART.

The term “SMART Goals” was first coined by business consultant George T. Doran in 1971. According to Doran, SMART goals were:

            S – Specific

            M – Measurable

            A – Achievable

            R – Realistic

            T – Time-Bound

SMART goals were originally applied to business goals, they apply equally well
to many other areas of life, including divorce.

Having a divorce goal like, “I want to get everything I can,” or even “I just want what’s fair,” may be emotionally satisfying. But, they’re not smart.

Why aren’t they smart? It’s because they’re vague. As a result, it’s impossible to know whether you’ve achieved them, or not.

“I want to get everything I can,” is not specific. How much is “everything.” It’s not measurable. How will you know that whatever you get is everything you could have gotten? It may or may not be achievable. But it’s definitely not realistic (unless by “everything” you mean: your share of everything.)

“I just want what’s fair,” fails the SMART goal test too.

“I just want what’s fair” sounds good, it’s horribly vague. What’s “fair?” Who
defines “fair?” You? Or your spouse? How do you measure what’s fair? How do you
know you’ve gotten what’s fair? Is what you think is fair actually realistic?
How do you know?

Notre Dame and Navy football game with a quote: The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.

Do SMART Goals Matter?

reason that you want your divorce goals to be SMART is because they can’t guide
you toward anything worthwhile if they’re not.

example, if you set your sights on being “fair,” then every time your spouse
does something that you don’t think is “fair,” you’re going to get sucked down
the rabbit hole of drama. Given the number of things that happen in divorce
that aren’t fair at all, focusing on getting “what’s fair” is going to keep you
chasing your tail most of the time.

the other hand, if your goal is something more specific, like getting 50% of your
assets, you have a much greater chance of success.  Assuming you have complete financial
information, you can calculate 50% of your assets with mathematical precision. That
goal is specific, it is measurable and, for the most part, it’s probably
realistic and achievable.

also time-bound: you will know you achieved your goal if you get 50% of your
assets when your divorce is done.

is Goal-Worthy in Your Divorce?

A big part of the trouble people have with divorce is that it’s so all-encompassing that it’s hard to wrap your head around it. That makes it hard to think of everything. It also makes it all too easy to miss what really matters.

example, when you’re thinking of what your divorce goals should be, it’s easy
to think about the financial stuff. You KNOW you want at least 50% of everything.
Most people do.

know you need an income you can live on. You know you don’t want to be eating
cat food for years while your ex is eating steak.

you have kids, you know that you want to spend a reasonable amount of time with
them after your divorce. You also probably want to do your best to minimize the
disruption that your divorce will cause them.

beyond that, is there anything else you need to think about?

answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Divorce Goals You May Not Have Considered

While it may not be the first thing you think about, deciding HOW you want to divorce and what KIND of divorce you want can make a HUGE difference in how your divorce goes. Do you want your divorce to be amicable? Or are you expecting a fight? (Remember: your goals need to be realistic!)

Do you care how long your divorce takes? Do you want to limit the cost? Which divorce process are you going to use? Litigation? Mediation? Collaborative Divorce? Does your spouse want to divorce using that same process? Or are you going to fight about that too?

How much support are you going to need to get through your divorce? Do you understand your finances? Are you working with a therapist? Do you know everything you need to know in order to do the best in your divorce?

overwhelming as answering those questions may be, THOSE are the kinds of
questions you need to ask yourself when you’re setting your divorce goals.

Head of a man standing in front of a blackboard with the words "My Goals" and an arrow pointing up on top of his head.

to Set Goals for Your Divorce

you’ve answered the questions outlined above, you’ve identified your divorce
goals (and made sure they’re SMART goals), you then have to take THE most
important step in goal-setting. You have to choose your most important goal.

know that seems impossible. How do you compare prioritizing time with your kids
to getting enough money to support them (and you!)? It’s hard – really hard.

if you want to give yourself the best chance of actually getting the life you
want after your divorce, you need to focus only on the one (or maybe two!)
things that matter while you’re going through your divorce.

As author and entrepreneur James Clear explains, if you want to set goals you’ll actually follow, you need to ruthlessly eliminate your goals. (Sorry!) You need to focus on ONE thing.

especially true in divorce, where your goals often conflict.

example, you probably don’t want to spend a small fortune on your divorce. But
if your spouse is being completely unreasonable, you’re going to have a choice.
Either you spend more money on your divorce to try to get the money that you
want (or need!). Or, you cave in and accept your spouse’s unreasonable demands.

that will save you money in the short run. But it will probably cost you a lot
more in the long run.

NOTE: Just because one of your divorce goals doesn’t make #1 on your list, that doesn’t mean that you have to give it up completely. It just means that you will focus more of your time and energy on getting your #1 thing than you will on that thing.

How to Set Goals and Use Them: Red coffee mug sitting on a napkin with the words "Remember Your Goals" written on it.

The Final Steps in Making Your Goals Work for You

you’ve identified your goals, and chosen your most important goal, your final
step is to USE that goal to inform every decision you make in your divorce.

Is your spouse dragging you into court over something stupid?  Before you explode, ask yourself, “Will fighting over this issue get me closer to my goal or farther away?” Unless what you’re doing will bring you closer to your goal, don’t do it. (Yes. I know. It’s easier said than done! Try anyway.)

you’re having a hard time keeping your goal in mind, try using visuals.

making sure your kids are stable is your #1 goal, then put a picture of your
kids on your phone. Whenever you’re arguing with your spouse, or negotiating
with your spouse, and you start to get frustrated or angry – look at your phone!
That will remind you of what really matters to you.

keeping the house is your first priority, put a picture of that on your phone. Or,
if you don’t want your soon-to-be-ex tipped off about what matters to you, put
a picture that symbolizes what you want on your phone. Only you have to know what
the picture means.

doing all of this takes time. It takes effort. It’s not easy. But if you take
the time and do the work to set your divorce goals from the start, you will
have given yourself a valuable edge in getting through your divorce on your

having goals automatically make your divorce a breeze? Of course not.

But it will make it better. And sometimes better is the best you can do.

Another thing that can help you get through your divorce better is a checklist. (HINT: Lawyers use them all the time!)


Send me My FREE Divorce Checklist

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  • Well put. Divorcing properly requires focus. Keep your eyes on the prize! Moving on is the best revenge and getting scattered over distractions in the divorce process will throw you off course!

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