Once clients agree to enter the collaborative process, they sign a formal participation agreement and begin developing goals and interests. Generating and clarifying goals, interests, and concerns is an important part of the collaborative divorce process because they guide the development of options and negotiations. The goal is to satisfy both party’s important goals and interests in a final agreement. Each client lists their goals, interests, and concerns and imagines what their spouse’s goals, interests, and concerns might be. Thinking about the goals and interests of both parties creates a firm foundation for settlement. The following questions will help you clarify your important goals, interests, and concerns and the goals, interests, and concerns of your spouse:
- What are your goals?
- Why are these goals important?
- What are your spouse’s goals?
- Why are these goals important for your spouse?
- What are your concerns?
- Why are you concerned about these issues?
- What are your spouse’s concerns?
- Why is your spouse concerned about these issues?
An individual’s goals and interests are driven by basic human needs for security, economic wellbeing, a sense of belonging, recognition, and control of one’s life. Clients generally know their psychological needs and can identify some of their goals and interests. However, the collaborative team, and especially the mental health professional, will help clarify and focus a clients’ goals and interests. Once the client has articulated his or her goals and interests, the next step is to explore the motive behind each goal or interest. For example, if a client’s goal is financial security, the motive might be economic wellbeing or control of one’s life. If another goal is a comfortable relationship with the ex-spouse, the motive might be recognition. If a third client goal is to feel good about herself, the motive might be a sense of belonging.
In generating and clarifying goals and interests it’s important for the collaborative attorney to understand the emotional meaning of money because finances are such an important issue in divorce. How the couple handles this delicate dispute depends on what money means to them. It can mean prestige, class, acceptance, security, or power. A person’s attitude toward money begins developing early in life as they watch their parents deal with finances. As people mature, they merge these early memories with later experiences into a money attitude that governs their entire financial life. Money can shape our sense of self, our relationship with others, our social status, and our place in the world. How we deal with money is governed by powerful unconscious attitudes and beliefs. Surprisingly, our attitudes toward money are mostly independent of income and net worth: Poor individuals can be surprisingly generous, and wealthy individuals can be greedy.
A person’s attitude toward money strongly influences their goals and interests and how they handle negotiations in a collaborative divorce. Some individuals are optimistic risk takers who feel certain they can make more money while others are conservative pessimists who fear loss. Clients with opposing attitudes toward money often have conflicting negotiating styles. The optimistic risk taker will believe the savings account is half full and growing while the conservative pessimist will believe the family assets are few and diminishing. Two optimists will both feel they can make more money and won’t worry too much about dividing assets. By contrast, two pessimists will both want as much cash as possible because they feel life is uncertain and earning money is difficult.
There are strong psychological feelings attached to money, including love, envy, survival, power, security, and freedom. Couples marry for love and security; when that love or security is threatened by divorce, they become anxious and have difficulty making decisions. During a stressful divorce, clients may regress to more primitive money attitudes and make irrational choices. Under these conditions, money attitudes can interfere with negotiation and settlement. The best ways to minimize fights over money are to establish a comfortable collaborative atmosphere, keep communications transparent, and develop options that meet the goals and interests of both sides.