While statistics on couples marrying and divorcing have changed in the past 10-12 years, it wasn’t that long ago that census statistics showed that somewhere between 86 – 90% of all people living in the United States marry at least once. While rate of marriage and divorce has gone down, it isn’t due to people avoiding relationship. They just may cohabit or marry later, or not marry at all.

Of the huge numbers of those who do marry, very few imagine they will be the ones to divorce. Courtship, engagement and marriage bring dreams of a vibrant future together. Whether conscious or unconscious, discussed between the happy couple or not, each marrying pair has goals, visions, and aspirations. On the other hand, the sad fact is that between 40 – 50% of all first time marriages end in divorce.  And, the divorce statistic increases with each successive marriage.  The individual and couple dreams, goals, and aspirations disintegrate. They must be replaced with two new sets of goals:

  1. The first set of goals is immediate and somewhat short term. These goals address how the divorcing couple wants to behave and treat one another and their family members as they go through the divorce process and establish two independent, yet interdependent lives. By focusing on their highest aspirations to behave with grace and dignity, as well as continued care for their family even though their marriage is ending, the couple can mitigate the pitfalls of blame and anger. This article will discuss this first set of goals.
  2. The second set of goals becomes the individual aspirations and desires to build a new future for himself or herself independently of the former spouse—as a newly single individual and as a single yet cooperative co-parent, if they have children.

The Stress Factor

Going through separation and divorce is an extremely stressful process—physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (1967), measuring the effects of stress on illness, separation and divorce rank as the 2nd and 3rd most stressful life events after top-ranked death of a spouse.

Divorce is hard on the couple, and it is especially difficult when they have children. The need to balance the adult emotional experience—the anger, sadness, feelings of betrayal, and grief at the loss of the relationship dream—with the needs of their children can be a Herculean task. All of these emotions are normal; Acting them out before, during, or after the divorce is inappropriate. It requires good self-care and a good support system—family, friends, maybe therapists, and divorce specialists specifically trained in stages of divorce and emotional intelligence—to come through this difficult life transition with grace and dignity intact, feeling ready to be healed and ready to move on once the settlement is finalized.

Without this support—focused on ultimate healing for the entire family—many individuals or couples remain angry, bitter, and stuck in the past for years to come. The consequence is long term suffering for themselves, and long-term negative consequences for their children.

Stay Focused on Big Picture Goals

When a couple chooses to pursue divorce with the help of Mediators or Collaborative Divorce attorneys and specialists, they are choosing to stay focused on their greater goals. While this is not the only way to go through a divorce, the highly trained collaborative professionals and divorce mediators are there to assist them.

The greater goals—let’s call them “big picture” goals—remind the couple they both want to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes that support the needs of everyone in the family (as best as can be done; realistically and within their means.) The divorce attorneys and specialists do not make the decisions; the couples do, again with the support and guidance of the professionals, helping them to stay focused—not on their immediate and short term hurt or anger, but on the long-term outcomes. Goals are discussed and established in the very beginning of the Collaborative Divorce process; they are revisited often throughout the entire process.

Common Big Picture Goals in a Divorce Settlement

A typical big picture goal all couples want is for their children to be well cared for. They want their children to have a good relationship with both parents who both love them and who both wish to continue to care for them now and always. With the help of highly trained Collaborative Divorce professionals, the couple is guided toward this outcome, when they are having a bad day or when negative emotions overwhelm them, or when they want to be spiteful instead of working together for the long term health and well being of their children.

On the other hand, in a contentious or litigious divorce, one or both parents might use their children as pawns, attempting to have control over visitation time or custody issues. Often in litigious divorces the parents attempt to turn the children against the other parent because they themselves are hurt and angry. This is extremely detrimental for the children’s psychological development now and in the future.

Another common big picture goal couples are helped to articulate concerns the financial stability of managing two households. In aggressive or litigious divorces individuals are sometimes encouraged to pursue as much as they can financially, without concern for the lifestyle needs of the entire family in question. The focus is on getting the most money—as a form of control and power. It’s not on the people and the role that finances play in their long term mental, emotional, physical or spiritual health.

With the help of Mediators or Collaborative attorneys and specialists to stay focused on big picture goals, a couple would take into consideration everything from good health insurance for everyone in the family, comfortable living arrangements for everyone, educational and extracurricular needs of the children, developmental stage and ages of the children, the parent’s lifestyles, and many more aspects of their lives going forward. They would be assisted to consider both short and long range particulars that might be supported by their finances. They would be supported to make healthy win/win financial choices for everyone in their family as they separate their household and their lifestyle.

These are two big picture goals for all couples divorcing with children. Other goals are customized depending on each couple’s needs. The team of specialists helps them articulate the goals and helps them to stay focused on achieving these greater outcomes as they go through a difficult life transition and begin to create a new future for themselves individually and for their children.





Additional Resources

When You Feel Stuck—or Choose to Remain—In a Difficult Relationship With Someone Who Will Not or May Not Change

7 Tips When You Resent Being In the Lead With a Colleague, Employee or Mate

When Men Don’t Fully Engage, It Deprives the Women in Your Life of Growth

When You Are Ready—Reach Out for a Complimentary Call to Explore Your Needs here


Dr. Jan Hoistad