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  • Writer's pictureAttorney Bonilla


Updated: Jun 16, 2022

Once you have decided to divorce, you need to work with your lawyer to establish short and long term goals. You may not be mentally or emotionally ready to do this at your first meeting. It might take several meetings to come to an understanding of what you want from the divorce.

You may not have thought much beyond tonight's dinner when you first go to see a lawyer, so establishing goals might seem like a Herculean task, particularly if you were blind-sided by the divorce. Establishing goals is an important part of the process of your emotional recovery, and it lays the groundwork for your participation in your case.

Think about the following issues, and put down on paper your thoughts so you can begin to develop your goals:


Think about what type of parenting time and division of parenting obligations will best serve your children and fit into your lives. If you have not been the primary caregiver, consider carefully whether you want to seek and are prepared to accept that responsibility after the divorce. Do not pursue physical custody mere to secure a negotiating advantage over your spouse on economic matters. Seriously consider mediation, negotiation and alternate dispute resolution as methods of achieving a resolution to custody disputes so that you and your spouse can retain some control over how your children will be raised, and the terms upon which that will happen.

Child Support and Alimony

If you are the higher earning spouse, you will need to plan for your child support and alimony obligations. You will need to start gathering financial information to assess your obligations and establish realistic economic goals for your post divorce life. Your attorney will review the law with you and explain how much you should expect to pay. If you will be the recipient of support or alimony, you need to focus on your needs for housing, child care, and other essentials so that budget planning can begin. You will need to assess whether you can and should reenter the work force. Consider where you want to be six months and six years from now, and why.

Marital Residence

For many folks, the home is a visceral issue that leads to conflict. Often both spouses want the home, but neither can afford to keep it. Frequently, the home is really an albatross that needs to be let go.

If you think you may want to continue to live in the marital home after the divorce, ask yourself why and whether remaining is a realistic goal. Can you afford to "buy out" your spouse's interest? Does it make sense to `buy out' your spouse if you plan to stay in the home for a short-period? If the plan is to stay in the house for less than five years, it might make more sense to sell the house now, so that the other spouse participates in the costs of sale. Can you afford to pay the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep on your post-divorce budget? Is suitable alternative housing available for a more affordable price? Does it make sense to spend half of your monthly budget keeping the house, when suitable housing is available in the same school district at half the cost?

Retirement Benefits

Nearly everyone these days who is employed has some form of retirement benefit. Think ahead to your golden years. It may be very important to you to retain an interest in your spouse's retirement plans, especially if you are unlikely to secure sufficient retirement benefits you're your own employment due to your age or employment realities. On the other hand, an interest in your spouse's retirement plan might be something you can afford to give up if you are young, or have or expect to have adequate retirement benefits from your own employment. You may prefer to waive your interest in your spouse's retirement plan in exchange for other assets.

Property Distribution

Identify the assets that you wish to retain and prioritize them in order of importance to you. Do not -over-value assets to which you have a sentimental or emotional attachment that is far outweighed by their economic value. You will need an objective and realistic assessment of the value of the marital assets to be able to use an asset's value as a bargaining chip in negotiating a settlement. Assets that are difficult to value (like family businesses, for example) or of high value (some art and antiques) may require a professional appraisal.

Remember: few people own assets that are so valuable that they can't be replaced, and nearly everyone believes that what they own is more valuable than it really is. Your assets need to be valued by what they would sell for, not by what it would cost to replace them. Think about what you would get if you put an item on the curb and solicited an offer for purchase. You don't want to run up your legal fees arguing over an asset that is worth little. Emotionalism, positioning, anger, and principle must take a second seat to reality of the cost of litigation.

Every Goal Has A Cost

Every goal you want to achieve has a cost. Think of each goal in terms of its economic and/or emotional cost. Many people have a laundry list of items they 'need' or wrongs that need to be righted, often because the curbside advice received from friends and family have set up unrealistic expectations.

Do a cost-benefit analysis for each asset you want. Here's one way to look at it. It probably takes four to five hours of preparation for every hour an attorney spends in court. Figure out how much it would cost you to go to court over an item that you want You could end up spending $2000 in fees to recover a $50 item. Is it really that important?
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-Gabriela Bonilla, ESQ

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