March 22

The 3 Most Important Questions in Divorce


divorce, divorce blog, divorce process

The minute the word “divorce” enters your consciousness, your brain gets flooded with questions: “What do I do now?”  “How am I going to survive?”  “What will happen to the kids?”  “Will I spend the rest of my life alone?”  All of those questions are important to ask yourself at some point.  But they are not the 3 most important questions in divorce.

Young woman sitting next to intersection of train tracks.Why Asking the Right Questions Matters

While focusing on the questions that are racing through your head when your marriage is lying in a shambles at your feet might not strike you as the most productive use of your time, the truth is that the questions you ask have enormous power. Why? Because when you ask a question, your mind focuses on finding the answer. And it doesn’t just look for any answer. It looks for the answer to the question you asked.

If you ask a lousy question, you get a lousy answer.   Nowhere is that more true than when you find yourself facing divorce.

If you focus on “why me?” you will find yourself wallowing in a giant cesspool of self-pity that will do nothing but drag you down.

If you ask “why did my spouse … (lie, cheat, leave me, or do whatever it is that you wish s/he didn’t do)?” you will drive yourself crazy by focusing your brain on questions which have no good answer.

The only one who knows why your spouse did or did not do anything is your spouse.  While you could ask your spouse to explain him/herself: a) your spouse probably won’t answer you; b) even if your spouse does answer you, there is no guarantee that the answer s/he gives you is true; and c) knowing the answer  doesn’t change the fact that your marriage is now lying in a broken heap at your feet.

If asking “Why?” or “Why me” are not the questions you want to be asking yourself when you are facing divorce, what are better questions?

Hand holding light bulb with question 3 question marks on top of it.The 3 Most Important Questions in Divorce

The most important questions you can ask when you are facing divorce are those that move you forward, rather than those that keep you stuck looking in the rear view mirror and wondering what just hit you.  You want to ask questions that help you focus , not just on the pain you are going through at the moment, but on the life that you want to create for yourself once this misery is behind you. (And, yes, there will be life after your divorce.)

So what are the 3 most important questions in divorce?

  1. What Do You Want?
  1. How Are You Going to Get it?
  1. Who Is Going to Help You Get it?

Simple, right? These questions are so simple, in fact, that most people take them for granted. That is why these questions, as basic they are, so often get overlooked.

The Power of Asking the Right Questions

Most people are so caught up in the trauma and drama of divorce that they never force themselves to figure out what they want for their life once their divorce is over.

Because they don’t know what they want, they don’t make a plan for how to get it.

They also think (quite mistakenly) that they can either get through their divorce completely on their own, or that the only person they need to help them get through their divorce is a divorce lawyer.

Instead of focusing on the important questions that will actually propel them through their divorce and prepare them to create a new life, many people tend to spin in circles trying to answer all of the tactical questions that are bombarding them each day.

It’s not that the questions like “Where will I live?,” “How will I pay my bills?,” and “When will I see my kids?” are not important. They are.  But if you never zoom out and look at the bigger picture, at the end of your divorce you may find that you are financially devastated, emotionally spent, and personally wrecked.

By not asking the right questions when you are going through your divorce, you set yourself up for being in the wrong place once your divorce is over.  Without intending to do so, you end up spending more money, wasting more time, and losing the things that mattered to you the most.

Focusing on the most important questions helps you prevent all of that.

Cute beagle looking up to the sky with his head resting on a tableWhat Do You Want?

It seems so simple. What do you want? Yet, when your head is spinning and you’re an emotional wreck, figuring out what you want is anything but simple.

Even if you feel like you’ve got your emotions under control, identifying your most important goals in divorce can be tricky.  It’s usually easier to say what you DON’T want than it is to identify what you DO want.

Yet, if you want to get through your divorce with the least amount of time, expense and drama, identifying what matters to you the most is key.

Ask yourself: what is the single most important thing you want in your divorce?  Is it spousal support?  Or, maybe it is getting custody of your kids? Perhaps you are older and your earning capacity is limited, so your biggest concern is getting enough of the retirement assets to make sure you are secure as you age.

When trying to identify the things that are most important to you in your divorce, it helps to think about the kind of life you want to create after your divorce.  Ask yourself: what will it take to create that life?  Will it take money? Will it take time? Or, will you need to go back to school for awhile? Maybe you’ll need to focus more on your kids?

If you figure out what kind of a life you want after your divorce, you will know what is most important to you in your divorce.

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.How Are You Going to Get What You Want?

You can have the loftiest goals in the world, but without any plan to achieve those goals they are no more than just a pipe dream. If you want to actually achieve your goals you need two things: a plan and a strategy.

The type of plan and strategy you will use to start working toward your goals depends upon your goals.  What’s more, there is usually more than one way to achieve any goal.

If your goal is to be reasonably financially secure after your divorce, you could try to achieve it by fighting in court to get as much money as you possibly can from your spouse. Or, you could try to achieve that goal by negotiating for a win/win while simultaneously working on a post-divorce financial plan that will put you in a more secure financial situation.

Both approaches have a chance at succeeding, and a chance at failing miserably.  For example, if fighting in court costs you tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of dollars, even if you “win” you may end up with less money in your pocket than you would have done by negotiating even a “bad” settlement.

To identify the best plan and strategy, you need to look at all of the facts and circumstances you are facing.  For example, you have to understand your needs, and your spouse’s needs.  You have to know what your spouse will want, and whether your spouse is likely to be reasonable, or not. You have to know what is important to you, and what you are willing to give up.

Finally, you have to be willing to enlist the help you need to implement your plan, and make achieving your goals a realistic possibility.

Silhouette of a man reaching out in the sunset. Another hand reaches for him.Who Are You Going To Get to Help You Achieve Your Goals?

No one – especially someone going through the emotional and financial upheaval of divorce – is an island. No one, not even a divorce attorney, can handle all of their divorce issues themselves.

Many people today want to save money by doing their own divorce without legal help. That’s understandable.  With so much information being available on the internet, and divorce lawyers being so expensive, it is easy to believe that you will be perfectly fine doing a  DIY divorce.

But DIY divorces can be dangerous.

Unless you have been married for a very short time, have no kids, no real estate, no family business, and you are not splitting any retirement accounts, going the DIY route can be a disaster.

It can leave you fighting with your spouse for years after your divorce when you find out that assets you intended to divide can not be divided. You may both be surprised when no one wants to buy the house you intended to sell, and now the roof leaks and you never talked about who would pay for it.

Or, maybe you forgot to talk about who would get the kids on Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve, or any one of the dozens of other holidays that come along every year.  Now, you find yourself locked in battle with your ex over every holiday schedule.

Dealing with these kinds of problems after you are already divorced will likely cost you substantially more time, money, and energy, than what you would have spent by getting some quality legal advice about your divorce from the beginning.

Word "Confused" with a red "X" on it, and the word "Coaching" written belowBut a divorce lawyer is only one person you will need when you are going through a divorce. You also need a therapist, or a divorce coach.

Getting Help from a Divorce Coach

The biggest part of divorce is the emotional trauma that accompanies it. While it is wonderful to think that you can be an emotional rock in even the most difficult emotional times, the truth is, you are only human! No one gets through a divorce without some emotional drama. Having a therapist on your divorce team can mean the difference between riding an emotional roller coaster that keeps you continually throwing up over the rails, and actually dealing with your emotions so that you can heal.

Finally, depending on your circumstances, you might also benefit from some financial help.  You may need to consult with an accountant about the tax implications of your divorce. Or you may need to talk to a divorce financial planner about dividing your assets, or setting an appropriate amount of support.

Asking Better Questions

Asking the right questions while you are going through a divorce can keep you focused on getting through the process in the way that will help you identify and achieve your goals.  It will save you money, time, and a lot of emotional angst.

Now that you know the most important questions in divorce, only one question remains: What questions will you be asking now in your divorce?


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  • I agree that it is important to make sure you know what you want when getting a divorce. I have a friend who recently got divorced, and he is still reeling from the after effects. I think a lot of that could have been prevented if he had just thought about what he would do after the divorce. The problem is that it is such an emotional time that it is hard to think ahead. How do you help your clients plan ahead?

    • Having a good divorce coach helps a lot. You need to educate yourself about what divorce, and what you are facing. Only then will you truly be able to make the best decision.

  • The only question in my divorce, which spanned four and a half years of litigation, was whether I was going to have enough left to live on after all that was taken and given to my ex. The answer to that question is no.
    The sorts of philosophical questions you are posing seem downright absurd to this divorced person!

    • I appreciate your feedback. I also agree, these questions are a bit “philosophical.” But that doesn’t make them any less important.

      Not figuring out what you want, or making a plan to get it, makes it much less likely that you will, in fact, get what you want at the end of your divorce. Does focusing on what you want mean that you are guaranteed to get it? Of course not. No one in divorce gets everything they want. Divorce (and life) just don’t work that way. But focusing on what you don’t want (i.e. what will be left to you after everything is taken away and given to your wife) usually produces a much worse result.

      I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. All I have is my education and 20+ years of experience in working with divorce. Still, my perspective and experience are my own. I can only imagine how horrible your divorce was. Getting over it will take time … and maybe a different perspective. Or, not. Either way, it’s up to you.

      I wish you the best.


      • My wife got everything she wanted, and a few things she didn’t even ask for. Her after tax income is twice mine. She doesn’t work anymore –I work two jobs. She has a luxury apartment in a posh suburb. I rent a room in the inner city. I went through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. She has over a quarter million dollars in assets. We have one adult child who is estranged from his mother but close to me. She never stayed home to run the household and was emotionally abusive to our child and to me. For this the family court richly rewarded her and punished me.

        • It sounds like your divorce was a nightmare. Unfortunately, as you know, divorce is not always fair. I wish there was something I could say that would change your situation, but there is not. I’m sorry.


          • Thanks for your understanding comment. In real life, I hear comments like:
            “That can’t possibly be true. You must be either lying or leaving out something major in your story.”
            “The judge must have punished you for some kind of misbehavior. What horrible things did you do?”
            “You must have hired the world’s worst lawyer.”

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