Finalizing your divorce strategy and your plan for having the life you desire and deserve after the divorce is Step #7 in the process of your divorce strategy education.
Everything so far has been dedicated to getting you prepared to utilize the divorce process to move on from your marriage and ultimately improve your life. Doing this properly requires a great deal of soul searching, some learning, and a lot of preparation.
All you need to do now is refine your plan for moving forward with your divorce and your life after your divorce so that you can put that plan into action.
Set Your Legal GoalsIdeally, you should arrange to have an in person meeting with your divorce lawyer shortly after you hire them. Then, in advance of the meeting, communicate to your lawyer that your purpose for the meeting is for them to understand your goals for the divorce, and to help you understand which of your goals are realistic, but also which of your goals are unlikely based on the law and the judges that may govern your divorce. Before the meeting, you should ask that your lawyer set aside the time to review the following documents, which you will provide in advance of the meeting with enough time for them to be read thoroughly:
- Your written summary of your goals for the divorce (personal and financial), outstanding questions, potential negotiation leverage, and your marital history. If you have been using our forms available in the free My Best Divorce member library, you would give the lawyer the Divorce Organizer document. It would be best if you updated this document to reflect any changes based on additional information learned about your situation or from the attorney interviews.
- Your summary of the assets and liabilities subject to your divorce. If you are using our forms, this would be the Net Worth Organizer document.
- Your current and after divorce budgets that you created for you and your spouse. If you are using our forms, this would be the Budget Organizer document(s).
- Your summary of “questionable” or “suspicious” transactions. If you are using our forms, this would be the Questionable Transactions Organizer.
- All of the financial and banking records you have gathered so far, as well as a list of anything that is missing or you know exists and were unable to maintain.
During the attorney meeting, go over your goals. As part of this, make sure your divorce lawyer helps you refine your goals to what is legally realistic.
There is no sense setting goals for your divorce that cannot be reached, so make sure your goals are realistic.
Set Your “Best Life” Goals
You should also speak to a therapist/psychologist if you have not already to assist you with developing a set of non-financial goals for after the divorce. If you have never been to a therapist before you might be resistant to take this step, but having a plan to improve your life after the divorce that extends beyond a financial settlement is critical to you living the Best Life possible after your divorce.
You need to have a plan for the type of life that you want to live after the divorce. If you have not done so already, stop and get your personal goals outlined now. Some tips doing this are covered here and here.
If you procrastinate developing goals for your life after the divorce you will be at risk to be worn-down, misdirected, and depressed instead of energized, motivated, and optimistic once your divorce is over.
Finalize Your Divorce StrategyAs soon as you and your divorce lawyer have collaborated to refine your goals to what is realistically achievable and in your best interests it is time to work with your lawyer and therapist to develop your “strategy.” Your “strategy” is how you turn goals and concepts into reality. It is a “big picture” overview of what is going to need to happen before, during, and after your divorce lawsuit for you to obtain your desired divorce settlement and the Best Life possible after your divorce. The legal aspects of your “strategy” should allow you to understand the order and timing of the items listed below, but might end up being more detailed:
- What happens next? You need to know the next step in what happens now that you have hired your lawyer.
- What needs to happen before the divorce lawsuit is filed? Are there any strategic initiatives that need to get in motion or completed before the lawsuit is filed? Are there any additional documents or evidence that need to be gathered? Account access rights that need to be terminated?
- When will the divorce lawsuit be filed? Eventually there will be a lawsuit for divorce filed with your name on it. At what stage of the process will this happen?
- When will your spouse have to be notified about the divorce lawsuit? At a certain point your spouse will be made aware that you intend to seek a divorce. You should know when this will happen as part of your planning. I note there are separate chapters in Step #8 devoted to informing your spouse, children, and others about the divorce.
- When will negotiations with your spouse begin? You should know the timeframe for when initial settlement negotiations with your spouse will start.
- What will be the initial settlement offer to your spouse? You and your lawyer should define as much of your ideal settlement as possible. It may well be the case that you will need to obtain more information before you are in a position to define a complete settlement offer.
- What is your “drop dead” worst acceptable settlement? You should work with your lawyer to define the minimum financial settlement that you will accept to avoid taking your case to trial. You might not be able to define your “drop dead” settlement until you conduct financial discovery and perform a net expected value analysis. See in Step 9: Utilizing a “Net Expected Value” Settlement Analysis for a detailed explanation about how to do a net expected value analysis.
- What will need to happen in the litigation if my spouse refuses a reasonable settlement? You need to understand what your lawyer will be doing if your spouse does not agree to settle your case on agreeable terms. I note that Step #9: Resolution Focused Litigationdetails my philosophy on how to litigate a divorce case in a way that encourages the quickest resolution possible, regardless of whether there is a settlement or need for a judge to decide issues.
- Are there any legal issues that will come up after the divorce is over? Depending on your situation, there may be other issues that need to be addressed after the divorce. These can be as simple as updating your estate plan to complex tax planning and lawsuits involving the assets you received in the divorce. Either way, it is a good idea to know what these issues will be now.
Set Your “Best Life” StrategyAs you get your legal Best Divorce strategy in place you also need to work (preferably with a therapist) to come up with an “action plan” so that you are making progress towards your personal (non-financial) goals for your life after the divorce. Your personal improvement strategy (which we call your Best Life strategy) will be unique to you, but needs to involve, at a minimum, the following components:
- What happens next? Similar to your legal “action plan,” you need to define the next step you need to take towards having the Best Life possible after your divorce.
- What are You doing for You? What is your plan for reinvesting in yourself to make yourself a better, happier, person? What types of things do you want to do for yourself and when will you being doing them?
- What relationships will need to change? As you progress towards your life after the divorce it is likely that the dynamics of some of your relationships with other people will need to change. As an example, if your spouse has historically threatened/controlled you, this needs to stop. You need to understand what changes will need to happen, how the changes will happen, and when the changes should happen.
- What needs to happen with your social life? For some more than others, divorce brings about changes in social circles (relationships with friends). Sometimes, a Best Life strategy will need to involve creating, from scratch, a network of friends, as you might not have had many or any during the later parts of your marriage (this is not uncommon). You need to understand what types of friends you want, and have an agenda for developing these social relationships that starts now.
- What will happen with your romantic/sex life? You should have an idea of how having another partner fits into your foreseeable future along with what needs to happen before you are truly ready for a new relationship.