I’ve written previously about WHY goal setting in your family law case is important, this post is going to help you define HOW to set them.
First understand that this process does not need to be complicated or time consuming! The process of thinking through important aspects of your case and identifying and prioritizing them is what is important.
The first step is identification of goals. Some people know right away what is important to them, others may find it is much harder. Some people have one very specific goal, others have many.
Here are some examples of goals that may help you start identifying them:
- To have specific time-sharing schedule with my child.
- To have $x available to me to get the training I need to start a new career.
- To be allowed to relocate to be closer to my family or to advance with my job.
- Maintain a healthy relationship with my partner for the future.
- To be able to keep my current home.
- My legal budget for this case is <insert amount>.
- To have my support obligation adjusted to <insert amount> due to <define changes such as new income and/or expenses>.
- To get my child into a new school.
- To have my case closed by <date> so that I can…
- Keep my current retirement accounts after the divorce.
Here Are Common Area’s To Consider For Goal Setting:
- Division of assets and liabilities (in a divorce).
- Legal Method (cooperative / aggressive).
- Speed (quick / slow).
- What relationships are most important.
- What is your legal budget.
- Financial Support – alimony (in a divorce).
If you have children
- Time-sharing schedule
- Decision Making
Finally, keep in mind there are NO right or wrong goals. Goals are specific to you, your unique circumstances and your family. Once you have identified your goals, the next step will be goal evaluation.
Review the goals you just identified above and evaluate them for the following attributes:
- Is your goal specific? Saying you want to change support, but failing to define by how much, is not good enough. Saying you want your case to be done “fast” is not good enough. Define what time-frame you have available. Be specific.
- Is your goal measurable? At the end of the case, would an independent 3rd party be able to clearly identify if you achieved your goal? If not, you may need to add some way to measure success. Try to make goals measurable.
- Is your goal realistic? You might need to consult with an attorney to help you evaluate this. It is important to set realistic goals based on the law and your specific circumstances. As we mentioned in our previous post on family law goal setting, if you consult with an attorney, it’s important to partner with one who feels your goals are realistic.
- Do you (or your attorney) have control over this goal? Is your goal within the reasonable bounds of the law? I always tell people you only have control over yourself. Avoid setting goals for things that you have limited control over. If you set ambitious goals, at least be aware of the limitations to your goal. For example, a goal to make your ex become a ‘better parent’ is a poor goal because nobody can make someone change. Being a ‘better parent’ is also subjective (what exactly will make them better).
- Do any goals conflict? If one of your goals is to work with a small legal budget, but another goal is to conduct an ‘aggressive’ legal strategy, those goals may be in conflict (unless maybe you are representing yourself).
Now that you have identified your Specific, Measurable and Realistic goal(s), the last thing is to prioritize them. If you only have one, that’s easy! If you have more than one, you should try to prioritize them from most important to least important. At times you may be faced with making decisions that that benefit one goal at the expense of another.
Revise Goals As Needed
As your family law case progresses, new information becomes available, and circumstances change, you may need to change your goals. You are free to change them at any time!
Make sure you update your goals in writing. In addition, if you are working with an attorney, make them aware of these changes so you are both working toward the same set of goals!
I hope you found this goal setting exercise to be helpful. I truly believe that identifying what is most important, making legal choices based on those goals, and sharing them with anyone who is helping you, will lead to better decisions and support better outcomes in your family law case!