April 28, 2016

The Puzzle in Divorce

159627120-heart-shaped-jigsaw-puzzle-with-missing-gettyimagesDo you do jigsaw puzzles? They can be great exercise for your brain, but they do require patience. The image on the box looks great, and then there’s the daunting moment you must face after dumping the pieces out in a messy pile. Those who approach puzzles with strategy most definitely have an advantage, and sites like Puzzlewarehouse.com offer tips for people attempting puzzles for the first time. Divorces can be like undone puzzles in many ways, and so these tips overlap with what we do as collaborative divorce attorneys. Here are six tips in particular from puzzlewarehouse.com that relate well to the collaborative divorce process:

  1. “Flip all pieces upwards.”
  • “Having all your pieces facing the same way can be tedious, but it makes it so you’re working with the whole puzzle the whole time, and it’ll make the next steps quicker.”

This first step is true for both puzzles and couples looking for a divorce. Couples who begin the divorce process must deliver their “pieces” (of information) to the professionals involved in their case. Details that need the attention of everyone involved must be “flipped upwards” (brought to light) so they can be placed well in the bigger picture.

  1. “Find all the edge pieces.”
  • “Constructing your border gives you a defined space that you’ll work inside as you build.”

There are clear boundaries for each collaborative case that are determined in the first meeting between the clients and their chosen professionals. A few things that are considered are the interests and goals of each client, as well as a participation agreement and general expectations of conduct. Having clear parameters makes collaboration possible and desired outcomes attainable.

  1. “Sort by color.”
  • “From here you can build recognized sections of the puzzle.”

It is the job of collaborative attorneys to help their clients sort out and understand various options for building their divorce agreement. Attorneys can do this more easily when the clients have gathered their personal information (assets, lifestyle, etc.) so no piece is missing. A complete set of “pieces” makes sorting by type easy, so that the different sections of the agreement can be put together quickly and completely, including every aspect from child support to personal property to businesses and real estate. The big picture agreement that results will be one that suits the needs of both parties.

  1. “Special pieces.”
  • “Some pieces will be part of really distinguishing parts of the puzzle because it has text on it, or a color that’s only in one spot. Keep those separate and build on them as you can… it will be easy to spot where it goes as you start assembling the puzzle.”

Every couple has a unique case because of the specific goals and circumstances in their lives that they bring with them to the case. Certain issues (“distinguishing parts”) will have priority over others so that the bigger picture of the divorce agreement can be finalized. Family businesses, special needs children, and out-of-state job offers are all examples of special pieces in a divorce that require special attention from the start.

  1. “Work on small sections at a time.”
  • “Instead of trying to work on the entire puzzle at once, it can be really helpful to work on small portions so that you’re accomplishing sections. This will help keep you motivated and you’ll have a visual record of your progress.”

Helping clients break down the divorce process into pieces that are manageable is an important part of the process for collaborative attorneys. Maintaining a broader perspective that keeps the bigger picture in sight without getting “lost in the weeds” (or, pile of puzzle pieces), is important. Keeping checklists and journals are both recommended methods that can work well for clients trying to maintain this perspective.

  1. “Don’t give up.”
  • “When you’re tired… take a break… sometimes too much time at one problem can take away from [the puzzle process]. A fresh look at it later may help you see things you missed, too!”

Stress is often a part of any divorce process, and a collaborative team of professionals will try to pace the tasks so the clients can remain comfortable yet productive. Communication is always encouraged so that all needs will be heard. Avoiding the burnout that often happens in litigated divorce is easier when the case is approached with appropriate pacing and communication. With the collaborative divorce process, setting a schedule at their own pace is something within the client’s control.

* * *

People with skills in putting jigsaw puzzles together gained those skills by putting many puzzles together. Collaborative divorce attorneys have years of experience in putting together divorce agreements in and have developed their skills through practice and love to efficiently lead their clients towards the best agreement for everyone.

 

 

 

Audra HolbeckABOUT THE AUTHOR
Audra Holbeck
Attorney, Holbeck Law Office

Audra’s office is in Woodbury, Minnesota and she limits her practice to Collaborative Family Law and Mediation. She received her degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. She has been actively involved in the Collaborative Law Institute since 2004 and is passionate about helping her clients create realistic and workable settlement options. She believes family disputes can (and should) be resolved outside the courtroom, in an environment that allows the family to reorganize, engage in healthy and effective communication, and move forward. Learn more at www.HolbeckLaw.com

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2 Responses to The Puzzle in Divorce

  1. I love the metaphor, Audra! Great article!

  2. Bruce D. Peck says:

    Lovely piece, Audra. The jig saw puzzle is a good analogy for the divorce process.

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