The divorce app market has grown exponentially in recent years. Back in 2012, the Department of Work and Pensions launched the first ‘web based application,’ a 14 million pound scheme ‘to help people deal amicably with acrimonious separations’. The private sector then got in on the act, with a number of companies launching their own creations.
Amicable app and Wevorce are probably the better known out of a growing pool of mobile friendly divorce tools. The former helps couples collate financial information and assess their readiness to separate or get divorced. The latter matches users with the right kind of council (lawyers, mediators, counsellors, financial specialists). Even Relate, the relationship counselling specialist, is developing a yet undisclosed ‘online dispute resolution platform.’
Based on the evidence, divorce apps are here to stay and will certainly help couples save both time and money. However, the real question is, does faster and cheaper mean better? You could argue that anything that streamlines the cumbersome process of divorce is a good thing. The more we can make divorce a straightforward process and help people reach an amicable divorce, save on
legal fees, divide assets and make arrangements for children, surely the better?
In our view, there are definite plusses and minuses. The first point to make is, an app can never replace the expert council and experienced support, understanding and empathy of a lawyer, mediator, counsellor or financial planning consultant. Any app which claims to replace ‘human council’ should be avoided. However, if they are designed to streamline the process, such as tools to help couples pick the right kind of council, as Wevorce claims to do, this is a good thing.
There are an increasing number of apps which specialise in different areas of the divorce process, such as Ourfamilywizzard, which helps couples manage childcare and expenses through a shared diary and tracking system. Automating tasks can save time and avoid conflict - this is where apps can really make a difference.
Then there’s the moral argument. Are we devaluing the sanctity of marriage by making it easier to divorce? Anne Widdecombe famously likened the move towards ‘quickie divorces’ as treating marriage as if you were; “discarding an old carrier bag.” Is the emphasis and prioritising on speed of the process of divorce implied by the apps devaluing the benefits of time to process and discuss the enormity of practical, financial, emotional, psychological and relationship change that a divorce entails. It takes time to work through such complexity.
Many of these views are born out of a misunderstanding of what a ‘quick divorce’ is really about. Anyone who has undergone a divorce would agree that it is not something you decide upon lightly. It’s also unlikely a couple will be tempted to give their marriage another go just because the divorce paperwork looks a bit daunting. Divorce apps along with other tools and approaches that speed up the process of divorce, are designed to make things a bit easier once the difficult decision has already been made. There is no evidence they encourage nor discourage couples to come together or go their separate ways.
Our advice would be to do your research on divorce apps before taking the plunge. Go for the ones that make the process easier, but be aware of any app that claims to manage the divorce process end to end. Find the tools that help you manage key stages of the divorce process, such as collating financial information, sharing childcare diaries or managing expenses, but always seek human council from specially trained and experienced family lawyers, counsellors and financial consultants when handling the big issues, including unpicking complex financial ties or making decisions over child care.
After all, there can be no short cut to human experience and a supportive relationship with a professional who understands the complexities of separation and divorce.
If you’re considering an alternative to a court based divorce, contact a local collaborative professional for advice and information.