Having clear goals is so important during a divorce and you need to identify your goals at the very beginning of the process. It’s incredibly rare that both parties get exactly what they want, which is why you need to decide which things are most important to you and which areas you are willing to make concessions in. Once you are able to identify your priorities, you will be in a much better position to negotiate during the divorce and hopefully, avoid conflict as much as possible. But how do you identify your main goals during a divorce?
Custody And Placement
If you have children, they should always be your priority during a divorce. It’s important that you put them first and you consider what is best for them, even if it’s not necessarily what you want. Naturally, both parents will want their child to stay with them but you have to be realistic and accept that it may be better to stay with your ex-spouse.
The first step when setting your priorities is understanding the difference between custody and placement. Legal custody covers your legal right to make decisions on behalf of your child while placement, sometimes called physical custody, deals with the time that the child spends with each parent. It’s important that you and your spouse discuss what is best for the child and decide what your goals in terms of custody are.
You may decide that you will have joint custody of the children or you might decide that one of you should have sole custody. If you disagree about this, you will have to fight your case in court and this can lead to a lot of conflict, so deciding it out of court is best. Don’t fight for custody because you want to get back at your spouse, only do it if you genuinely think that it’s best for the child.
Child Support And Maintenance
Whoever has custody of the child needs to be financially stable so they can provide for them. Once you have decided on your goals in terms of custody, you need to think about your aims for child support and maintenance. The decisions you make about physical custody will determine who gets child support, and you then need to think about the amount. In many states, there is a formula to work out the correct amount of child support based on the income of both parties and the time that the child spends with each parent. You need to assess your finances and consider how much child support you realistically need to take care of your child. But you also need to think about your spouse and how their financial situation is. If you fight for too much, you can leave them in a difficult financial position, which leads to a lot of resentment.
If your income is significantly lower than your spouse, you may decide that you want to ask for maintenance. However, you should only make this a priority if you are in a difficult financial situation and you need the money. Fighting for maintenance to spite your spouse is the wrong thing to do. If you do claim maintenance payments from your spouse, the amount will be determined by a number of factors including your income, the length of the marriage and your contributions to the marriage.
When you are determining your goals for child support and maintenance, it’s not about getting the most money for yourself. It’s about finding a way to improve the financial situation of both parties as much as possible and, most important of all, ensuring that your child is supported.
Assets And Debts
Dividing up the assets and debts and determining what is most important to you can be very difficult. Working out which assets are clearly defined as personal assets is a good place to start. There are certain things that you both agree on, but difficulties arise when it comes to splitting the shared assets.
If you start trying to claim as much as possible, it will only lead to conflict. Instead, you should prioritize the things that mean the most to you and then be flexible on other things. Many people make the mistake of considering the monetary value of items when deciding what is most important to them but it’s best to think about the sentimental value instead.
You also need to decide how debts are split up. In many states, the court considers them to be split 50/50 unless you argue otherwise. If your spouse has a lot of personal debts due to poor financial decisions, you should not be held responsible for them. When considering debts, it is often best to make some concessions on assets so you take on fewer debts. If coming out of a divorce in a strong financial position is a priority, you need to think carefully about taking on debts.
Achieving Your Goals
Once you have determined your goals, you need to work out how you are going to achieve them. Hopefully, a lot of your goals will line up with the goals of your spouse, which makes the whole process a lot easier. Everything else will have to be decided in negotiations, which could mean direct discussions between you and your spouse or discussions between your lawyers.
In most cases, it’s best to avoid direct communication between you and your spouse, even if you think that you are on good terms. When emotions are running high, it’s easy for arguments to start and the whole thing will descend into point scoring. But if you get your lawyers to negotiate on your behalf, things will usually run a lot smoother and they will come to an agreement that helps both parties reach as many of their goals as possible.
If you still can’t make an agreement, you will have to litigate in court. In that case, it’s far more likely that at least one of you will feel as though you haven’t met all of your goals in the divorce.
Before you start the process, it’s important that you decide what your goals are so you can stay on track throughout the process.
* This is a contributed post and may contain affiliate links