Reprinted from the American Bar Association's Just Resolutions Newsletter
Written by Laura A. Wasser, Esq.
I am a child of divorce. My parents separated when my brother and I were teens, and had one of the most respectful, amicable divorces possible in the mid-1980s, certainly due in part to the fact that both of my parents were attorneys and my father was (and remains) a prominent family law attorney in Los Angeles.
I was briefly married between my second and third years of law school. It was a beautiful (and costly) wedding at the Bel Air Hotel with 10 bridesmaids, 10 groomsmen, gorgeous flowers, photos, and the whole nine yards. Shortly after graduating and taking the bar exam, we separated in 1994. We had nothing but a Jeep Cherokee, a pit bull named Raul and some credit card debt – and I got it all. I processed my divorce as my first assignment clerking for my father’s firm while waiting for my bar results. The divorce process was complicated even as a law school graduate who grew up with divorce law as a backdrop. I found that the forms were antiquated and redundant, and the law was not clearly laid out anywhere. To make matters worse, there was a dearth of resources for adequate self-help.
Setting out on my career path, I aimed to make things simpler for clients going through the divorce process, and I decided to focus on education, control, and resolution via settlement in my practice.
Since then, and over the course of my twenty-five years of practicing Family Law, it has become evident to me that a new approach to divorce is necessary and appropriate for today’s culture. Twenty-first-century families have less patience and energy to waste on long, drawn-out, expensive (financially and emotionally) divorces. I’ve also found that people prefer to be the masters of their own destinies and want to remain in control of their divorce process and the outcome, for their benefit and for the benefit of their families. This point of view persists across boundaries of geography, class, race, religion, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation.
At my online divorce company, It’s Over Easy, we have worked to create a solution in response to the needs of the modern family, and we call it “The Evolution of Dissolution,” - a much less expensive and more amicable way for couples to get divorced – and it is online. I feel that this evolution has finally become possible and popular because of our ever-increasing use of technology, and our desire and ability to have everything at our fingertips. Technology continues to evolve and impact every aspect of our lives. We can now date, participate in therapy and physical training sessions, and even meditate online. We buy insurance, groceries, clothes and really anything else we can think of online, so it’s no wonder that more people are turning to the internet to divorce. There are four main areas which contribute to people’s increased reliance on technology when it comes to divorce - time, money, control and health.
We are a culture on the move. Long gone are the days of landlines and snail-mail. We electronically sign our documents. We invented on-line dating. We text custody schedules and change our relationship status via social media. Our research is done online (so long, encyclopedias), and we read our novels and newspapers on a device. Online shopping affords us the opportunity to see, click, buy, and wear within hours of purchase. We want instant gratification in everything we do. While there are plenty of people who still want to hire Family Law attorneys, there are also numerous couples who do not have time to travel to an attorney’s office, find and pay for parking, and sit in meetings. Time is money, and when people decide they want to get divorced, they usually want the process to be completed at their pace, and as soon as possible.
We grew up in a service-driven, results-oriented economy, so we tend to be sophisticated about the things for which we pay and are impatient when the service isn’t as promised. Whatever our income or our tastes, when we spend money we want to see results. People need an effective and cost-efficient alternative to divorce when they can’t or don’t want to spend their life savings on an attorney. Most family court departments are overcrowded and underperforming due to state budget constraints. Judicial officers do not have enough hours in the day to read, hear, and rule on complicated domestic matters. The options for people who can’t, or choose not to spend money on an attorney are slim - self-help centers are less than desirable, if the court even offers them, and pro bono agencies serve only the most desperate and destitute.
This is a key factor for today’s culture. We truly do insist on being the masters of our own destiny. We are not shy about establishing conditions and setting standards for ending our relationships, the disposition of our property and the custody schedules of our children. We do not want to leave our future, or the future of our kids, in the hands of someone else – such as a judge who knows nothing about our family.
As a culture we value and care for our physical and emotional wellbeing. Whether it is a fitness regime, diet, or meditative breathing exercise, we strive for the wellness which can be attained if one is willing to be present and adhere to certain realized goals. People want a healthier approach to separating and divorcing as can be reflected by “Conscious Uncoupling,” a la Gwyneth Paltrow, “gentle separation,” touted by Jennifer Aniston’s ex, Justin Theroux, or “Peaceful Co-Parenting,” coined by Kate Hudson.
So how does technology help us to accomplish healthier divorces where we remain in control, without wasting our time and money? With new websites and apps being developed every day, it has never been easier for a couple to handle their divorce on their own terms, at their own pace, and for less money than traditional divorce attorneys. Technology allows people to do all of this from wherever they are, whenever they want. There are many options available now to people who want to handle their divorces online – online divorce, mediation, and family support (including co-parenting apps) are here to stay and make the process much easier to bear.
Whether you are ready to file your divorce online, or want help to communicate with your ex about co-parenting and finances, there’s an app for that!
In the Family Law space, It’s Over Easy is a platform which helps couples navigate the uncontested divorce process and generate all required forms to finalize their divorce. With a big emphasis on community and several educational videos and articles for its users, my team and I have created a place where couples can learn about the process and feel supported throughout.
For Family Law attorneys, and those who choose to hire attorneys to help manage their divorce process, technology can still play a major role. Not only is technology being created to help people navigate the divorce process on their own, but there is now new technology that supports lawyers in their law practices. PartUs and separate.us, provide divorce management software to law practices aiming to streamline the divorce process in one place. Dtour.life and FamilyDocket are divorce management systems for law firms that enable lawyers to connect with their clients on the site and share documents. Dtour.life can be used by parties in mediation or whom are working entirely without the assistance of counsel.
After their divorce is final, couples can visit the Worthy website and sell their engagement ring online. The The RealReal and other consignment sites offer users the ability to clean out their closets and make room for new chapter style purchases. Organizational services like Cloth will digitize your wardrobe and Coupon Sherpa helps find and store coupons without having to clip and save.
When it comes to moving on to life’s next chapter, after a divorce is finalized, there are many new tech options that offer much-needed direction and support. Online classes such as our Next Chapter: Life After Divorce Master Class and Gabrielle Hartley’s, Better Apart Master Class & Divorce Coaching and Better Apart Method Certification program for divorce professionals each provide tools and exercises to help better navigate the transitions and changes that divorce bring.
As for reentering the dating world, apps such as Bumble and match.com are popular, while the company Smart Dating Academy is a more bespoke service that offers free webinars and online dating coaches.
Apps like FAYR and coParenter are helpful to parents who need to communicate with each other regarding their children, custody, and everyday life. These apps have the added benefit of acting as a mediator between the parents – buffering them from direct contact – while helping the parents keep track of everyone’s schedules, and finances for the kids.
Compound is an app that makes the financial aspect of getting divorced with kids much easier. Finances are very often the most contentious part of a divorce. This app allows parents to share and spend money together for the benefit of their children. Compound makes it easier for parents to deal with and split their children’s activities and other expenses.
SupportPay and DComply are other apps which help to ease the stress surrounding finances during and after a divorce. These apps allow divorced parents to make automated support payments online. They make the payment of child support more predictable and reliable, and eliminate stress and confusion caused by missed payments.
Loop is a cool new photo sharing technology that enables families to share photos, and videos in real-time, and to video chat. This technology helps keep families connected when children are living at two different households.
If safety is a concern between co-parents, Soberlink is a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system which has proven to be an invaluable resource in divorce cases where alcohol abuse is or has been an issue during the marriage.
There is no question that the law remains slow to catch up with cultural change and growth. Nevertheless, both legal and service-oriented consumer technology are influencing how we as legal practitioners can assist our clients and better our practices and our lives. The evolution of dissolution is an evolution of how couples can transition from one family structure to the next in more amicable and cost-effective ways. The education and online offerings provided have come a long way from my mid-’90s divorce and are likely to affect how next generations approach familial relationships in a positive manner.
As a Family Law expert, Laura is also the author of the New York Times best- seller, "It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family and Bankrupting Yourself." She is the senior partner at Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles, and the host of the iHeart Original podcast All’s Fair with Laura Wasser on ApplePodcasts and all the popular podcast apps.
Laura has been named one of the California Daily Journal’s Top 100 Lawyers and Top 50 Women Attorneys every year for the last eight years (2012-2019) and she has been featured on The Hollywood Reporter’s Power Lawyers, Los Angeles Magazine’s Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America.