You may not want to separate at all, and your life may feel out of control, which makes looking at the future difficult. Even if you have initiated the separation, it is likely that you will have done so with a lot of fear and uncertainty, and without any clear idea of how your separation will be, partly because you won’t know how your spouse will react.

Having goals for your separation as well as for the future can help keep you and your spouse focused on what really matters – preserving your health, your wealth and your family – rather than getting stuck in the disagreements that can come up while separating. This can then save you time, money and a lot of heartache.

First, consider your goals for the separation itself.  What sort of separation do you want? Consider the words and statements that you would like to use to describe your divorce. Some examples include words like calm, cooperative, amicable, civil, respectful, and dignified, or phrases like, ‘we can negotiate calmly,’ ‘we’re both focused on what’s best for the children,’ ‘we can have honest conversations about what we want,’ or ‘we’re committed to treating each other with respect.’

If you have young children, consider how you will take care of them while you are separating. Where will they live? Can you and your spouse commit to speaking about each other respectfully in front of your children and not putting them in the middle? How do you want to protect them? How will you fund your children’s expenses throughout your separation? Then, consider the negotiation process itself. Would you prefer to negotiate directly, or through lawyers? Do you prefer to communicate in writing, or face to face? Can you speak calmly to each other, or would it be easier with a third party guiding the conversation?

Once you’ve considered the ‘how’ of your separation, the next step is to consider how you want your life and your family to look in several years’ time. What do you want for your children in the future? Where do you want to be, emotionally and financially?

Some example goals for your children might include:

  • I want our children to have good relationships with both parents.
  • I want our children to be free from our conflict.
  • I want our children to feel comfortable talking about whether they enjoyed their time at both parents’ homes.
  • I want my spouse and I to be able to effectively parent while separated.

Some example goals for your adult children might include:

  • I want our children to see that separation can be kind.
  • I want our children to know that in their conversations with me, they can be sure they won’t hear me criticising their other parent.
  • I want our children to know it is important for us both to be grandparents.
  • I want them to know that we have done proper business and estate planning.
  • I want them to know that their childhood wasn’t a lie.

Meanwhile, some example goals for yourself might include:

  • I want to find a better way to handle my anger/sadness/fear.
  • I want to be able to start healing.
  • I want to be able to pursue a career.
  • I want to improve my understanding of budgets and investments.
  • I want to be able to maintain a good lifestyle.
  • I want to continue my business

Write down what you want, for your divorce and for your future. If your spouse is open to it, you could do this exercise together, or you could write down your goals separately then share them with each other.

This excerpt is from ‘Breaking Up Without Breaking Down’ – Dr Tina Sinclair, Tricia Peters

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