EP 194: Know Where You’re Going in Your Divorce

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Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.

I want to start this episode off with a quote from Yogi Berra, in which he says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” I think that’s a good theme, particularly as we’re starting the year, and thinking about the divorce process, or regardless of where you are. I want to discuss a little bit about setting goals.

It’s the beginning of 2019, at least when I record this. There’s almost 200 episodes of the podcast, and 100,000 people listened in 2018. One of the goals I have, at least for the podcast, is to help as many people as possible go through the divorce process, and make sure that I can do it in an affordable, cost efficient manner for most people. One of the ways that I can do that, is having regular coaching calls, and for some people working in greater variation, and more hands on with others.

When it comes to the divorce process you have to have your own goals. A lot of times goals, particularly at the beginning of the year, come up in the context of, oh well what’s your new years resolution? Are you going to lose weight, or exercise, or stop smoking, or whatever the case may be? Ideally I should say, you should attach something specific to that. If you’re trying to lose weight, it might be, I need to lose 15 pounds.

Well the goal setting process, is equally relevant when it comes to your divorce, and understanding what you should be doing, and understand really what you want out of the process. That way once you set your goals for the divorce process, both you, your attorney, your divorce team, myself, can help you get in the best way possible, to the place that you’re aiming for.

As I said, we started with the Yogi Berra quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” One of the most important things you can do during the divorce process, is really set your specific goals for the things that you want. There’s a concept out there called smart goals. Smart goals stand for smart is an acronym. Smart stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and the t is time bound. If you look up smart goals, if you type that online, you’ll find the acronym.

You should be setting up smart goals for your divorce, and in terms of the things that you want, when it comes to the divorce process. A lot of times I might speak with you, and either you’re still in the planning phase, or you’re midway through the divorce phase, or even you’re right at the final settlement proposal, and I’ll say, “Hey, that’s all well and good, but what do you want?”

One of the issues is, sometimes you don’t know what you want. You want what’s best for you, and what’s best for you really depends on what your dreams and desires are. When it comes to the divorce process, it’s temporary. It can feel overwhelming, I get that. It can be a lot on your plate, and of course it is, but at some point for some of you in a few months or others in a couple years, whatever the case may be, this process will be over, and you will have moved on with the rest of your life.

Well, what do you want the rest of your life to look like? What does it look like? Of course this divorce and your money, so what does it look like financially for you? Are you receiving support? Are you paying support? Are you working? Are you retired, or planning to retire in a few years? Are you living in the same home? Are you living in a different home? Are you starting a new career? Are you traveling more? Are you doing all these other things in life, that you’ll have to ultimately try and figure out in the best way possible about yourself?

And so one of the things I say, regardless of where you are in the divorce process is, don’t necessarily … Or one of the starting points, is actually start after the divorce. Sit down with a pen and paper. If you ever see me in person, and I get to see a lot of you in person across the country. One of the things I carry with me, 100 percent of the time, is a notebook and a piece of paper. My notebook, actually I love blank white sheets of paper, and bring a pen with me.

What I do is, I want to make sure that I always keep on top of my goals. I keep them very simple. But I sit alone, sometimes on a plane, or a coffee shop, or in my office, and I make sure that everything is written down. Sometimes my goals are just for the day, what do I want to achieve that day. Sometimes they are, what’s going on that week, that month, that year, and in life. That way, at least when I’m presented with different options, I can say, “Hey, does this fit within my goals, and ultimately what I think I would have liked to do with my life?”

When it comes to the divorce process, you should be thinking in many ways the same thing. Fast forward, the divorce process is over, you’re envisioning you, and your kids, and your family. Even though it’s split, how do you want things to look, from a financial perspective, or a custody perspective, if you have children that you’re going to have to be dealing with custody issues with? Do you want partial parenting time? Do you want split evenly? Other things to think about, how do you want to plan for college? Is that’s something that’s relevant and important to your kids? What does that look like, for you specifically? What do the holidays look like? Or all of those types of things, and types of questions.

Once you start at that end goal, you need to have it clearly written down. When I say clearly written down, you should be able to email me, or send to your attorney, or send to a friend for all that matters, and say, “Hey, here are the goals that I am achieving.” You’ve got to have it written down, specific, and posted up somewhere that you won’t lose it.
Then when it comes to your team, and the divorce process, you can say, “Hey, here’s the stuff that I’m shooting for, can you help me get to those points as part of the divorce process?” You’re sitting down with your lawyer, one of the things you should be doing, is saying, “Hey, Mr. or Ms. Attorney, here are the goals for my life. How can I, during this divorce process, get there the best way possible?” Your attorney might help you say, “Well, I think these are pretty reasonable, and we can get you there.”

I just had a lunch with someone in person, and we were looking at her goals. It was very clear, I was like, “Look, you’re goals are going to be fine, so long as you just do these two or three things, you should be able to achieve your financial goals, and move where you want to move, and live the rest of your life the way you want to live it.” Other times, I’ll hear from you and I’ll say, “Hey, what are your goals for your divorce?” I’ll say, “You might need to adjust some things.” Or, “Hey, you’re going to actually probably need to get a job.” Or, “Hey, you might really need to think about it, if you can really afford this house, if you’re planning on saving for retirement, and whatever the case may be. Maybe there’s another property in your school district that might be okay, so you can keep the kids in the same school, but you might need to move, so your monthly expenses are lower, and therefore you can actually afford a good life in the long term for you.”

We start with your future goals, and I think that’s a great place to start, particularly at the beginning of the year. It doesn’t matter where you are in the divorce process, but knowing what you want is crucially important.

The other thing that’s very important, is knowing your goals. Once you know what you’re aiming for, knowing the best way to get there through the divorce process, is also something that is very relevant.

The approach can be very different, depending upon who you are. And so sometimes you are in a situation where perhaps there is an abusive spouse, and you don’t really have the option of sitting in a room with them, and mediating the divorce in a very civilized manner, pursuing like a collaborative divorce process, and so you have to take a tougher handed approach, to get through your divorce in the best way possible.

Other times, in many cases, you and your spouse are actually very civil with each other, and you know that this divorce process is coming, and you can still talk to each other. Basically, your job should be, hey lets minimize the fees, lets minimize the damage, lets not make this more difficult than it needs to be. Maybe we can work out 70 percent of this on our own. We still might need attorneys for another 30 percent, or a mediator to help us for this last 30 percent. That’s okay, but I think we can get to a pretty fair place, at a much cheaper price, than both of us fighting it out in an adversarial divorce process.

For you, that might be the goal for this process, and the approach that you take. For others, it might the case that you end up in front of a judge somewhere at the end of the day, deciding upon where the judge is the one, who after many months and potentially years of fighting, litigating, and everything else, the judge is the one who has to ultimately make a final decision. Sometimes that’s the approach that you have to take too for this process.

To the extent possible is, you need to think and set goals for your divorce process. It could be as simple as, if you haven’t chosen an attorney yet, you can say, “Hey, here are my goals in the choosing of an attorney process. This is what I want. Here are the goals when it comes to how I want to interact with my attorney. Here are the goals for how long I hope this process takes or doesn’t take. Usually it’s as little time as possible, but for some there’s reasons to extend it out a little bit.

There are different ways to set those goals. For everything in this process, take a sheet of paper, map them out, make them very clear, look up the smart goals framework, and really understand where you’re going in this process, and what you want to achieve from it, so that everyone is on the same page, including you. You need to know where you are going. If you start the year off right with your goals, and where you want to go, you can set up every action that you take from this day forward, to make sure that you’re doing the actions that fit within your goals.

I’ll give you an example that came up recently, this is a family friend who got divorced. They didn’t have very clear goals for their divorce process, and they ended up spending 10’s of thousands of dollars on who got what silverware, which was a waste, it went to the attorneys, and many years later they regret the way that they handled that divorce, but neither of them went in with the appropriate goals, and process to think about them.

One of things you should be doing, is just making sure you always stick to those goals. You do that, you’ll put yourself up for … I’m not going to say that this process is ever easy. I’m not going to say it’s always going to go in the way that you think it will. It rarely goes the way that you envision. But my objective for you, is to make sure that you’re putting yourself in the best position possible, to achieve all of the things that matter most to you, and to do it in the best way possible.

And so, start this process, start this year, regardless of where you are on the divorce process, either making your goals or reviewing your goals, to make sure that you are on the right path.

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