A New Way of Looking at Divorce

Categories: Divorce & Family Law

A New Way of Looking at Divorce

by Curtis J. Romanowski, Esq., Chairman
Collaborative Family Institute, LLC

A divorce is a one-time project that has defined starting and ending dates, a clearly specified set of objectives or scope of tasks to be performed, a predefined budget, and a temporary settlement or litigation organization that is dismantled – as far as the divorcing parties are concerned – once the divorce is finalized.

Examples of subsets of divorce-related objectives include: redesigning post marital relationships, setting up new households, drafting parenting plans, developing new processes for addressing post dissolution family objectives, setting up various estate and trust devices, and developing plans for re-entry into the workforce.

Some counter-examples – otherwise present in intact family units, but not part of the divorcing process per se – would include: cleaning the house, paying the bills, cooking the meals, driving to and from work, earning a living, or pursuing a hobby. In short, anything of a purely diurnal, repetitive nature.

Another definition of divorce: A divorce is a problem scheduled for solution.

As this definition indicates, settling a divorce is problem-solving on a relatively large scale. One of the common causes of difficulty in settling divorces is that insufficient time is spent at the beginning of the engagement defining exactly what problems are to be solved by the divorce. This can lead to the unfortunate situation in which the right solutions have been developed, but for the wrong problems.

Collaborative Divorce Management is the planning, scheduling, and controlling of divorce-related activities, in order to collaboratively achieve divorce objectives.

Collaborative Divorce Management involves three major activities, which are aimed at achieving divorce objectives. These activities are called Divorce Planning, Scheduling, and Control. The primary objectives – which exist in all divorces – can be listed as follows.

In order to be optimal, a divorce must finally reach its conclusion:

P Leaving the parties with durable solutions that will Perform in a manner likely to satisfy their needs;
C Within Cost or budgetary constraints;
T On Time;
S While holding the Scope of the divorce constant, and while using resources efficiently and effectively.

The first three of these are referred to as the P, C, and T aspects of Collaborative Divorce Management. A simplistic way to address these aspects would be to refer to them as good, fast and cheap. (P= good; C= cheap; T= fast). The term scope refers to the magnitude of the divorce or related family engagement, as well as to certain other boundaries or constraints.

For instance, suppose the divorce settlement engagement is initially priced or cost-estimated with the understanding that there will be no disputes involving child custody or parenting. Then suppose further that one of the parties later announces that he or she is planning to relocate to the opposite coast, and is hoping to preserve his or her parenting relationship in so doing by whatever means – including bringing the children along – we say that this is a change in the scope of the divorce settlement engagement, which will definitely result in a price increase.

A very important point:
You cannot tie down all four of these aspects simultaneously. If three of them are specified, the fourth must be allowed to vary.
Mathematically, this can be illustrated with a general equation as follows:

C = f(P, T, S)

In other words, the equation says, Cost is a function of Performance, Time, and Scope. Generally speaking, the Cost of the divorce will increase as, P, T, and S increase, except in the case where the parties are insistent – for whatever reason – upon bringing the divorce to its conclusion much earlier then the difficulty and magnitude of the issues would normally dictate.

In spite of the fact that the four variables are interdependent, many divorcing parties try to dictate all of them at once – then start to wonder why they cannot be met. One of the most common problems is for the scope of the divorce to increase as time passes. Divorcing parties often begin to think of things that did not initially occur to them, once the divorce has gotten underway. More often than not, the divorcing parties fail to invest enough time and effort at the beginning of the divorce, in order to properly define the problems sought to be solved at the conclusion of the divorce.

Unfortunately, the scope tends to increase in small increments – rather than large ones – making such changes a bit innocuous. Such incremental changes in the range of issues treated in the course of a single divorce engagement are known as settlement scope creep. The added difficulty is that many clients suffer from amnesia at the end of a divorce, which means that settlement scope creep must be managed concurrently, while the engagement is underway.