Divorce: am I going to be made obsolete by an app?!

News - 03/06/2016

‘The divorce app that lets you break up without breaking the bank’.

On 2nd June 2016 the Guardian published an article about a new app that is about to be launched.  It claims to help couples break up amicably while saving money. https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2016/jun/02/divorce-app-amicable-break-up-without-breaking-bank

So do I need to hang up my practicing certificate?

I think not.

The app’s developers say that going down the “legal route” from the start encourages conflict.  In my experience this is very far from the case and most of my family law colleagues would take great offence at this.  Most good family law solicitors are members of Resolution First for Family Law.  We adhere to a strict code of conduct that encourages parties to reach an amicable agreement and to focus on the welfare of the children.  I work hard to ensure my clients keep the lines of communication open with their partner and strive to keep them out of court by encouraging them to reach agreements by alternative means.  Very few of my cases go to Court, most are resolved via a more gentle, amicable process of negotiation or mediation.

The app seems to assist the parties in providing their financial disclosure and once an agreement has been reached puts them in contact with a legal firm to draw up a Consent Order.  The key thing that seems to be missing is that neither one of the parties will have received independent legal advice on what their options are and what they may be entitled to.   I have seen so many clients over the years who, had it not been for my advice, would have accepted settlements that were grossly unfair and would have left them vulnerable and unable to move on with their lives.  Every case is different, the outcome of every divorce turns on its own specific facts; there is no one size fits all solution.  Parties need to be advised on the options open to them, in light of what might be considered “fair”.  This app simply does not do this.

The whole premise of the app also assumes the parties are going to be able to reach an agreement on how to divide their assets.  I can foresee couples entering into this process blindly having had no advice, with absolutely no idea of the consequences of their actions.  They may well save themselves a little bit of money when going through the divorce process, but at what cost in the long term?  I doubt you can sue an app for professional negligence in the same way you can sue a lawyer…..

Interestingly the app’s developers also claim the app will not only provide legal information but also emotional support.  As a family lawyer who has also been through the pain and distress of a divorce I find it quite hard to see how a facility on my iPad is going to provide the same comfort and reassurance as a real life person who has years of experience in this very specialist field.

Divorce is one of the most stressful situations anyone can go through; the consequences of not getting it right can be disastrous, not just for the couple but also for their children.   I will not deny that instructing me to assist you with your separation is going to cost you more than downloading an app.  My clients instruct me because I care.  I am passionate about ensuring my clients are as supported not just with the legal process but also with the traumatic practical and emotional journey they are going through.  When they develop an app that replicates my passion for my job, the complexities of the cases and variety of possible solutions, then maybe I’ll think about making cakes for a living instead…..

If you need advice on a separation or divorce, please contact us.

Disclaimer:

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.

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