Silicon Valley Start-Up Offers Online Divorce Help
So you met your spouse through online dating, and things aren’t going so well? No matter: Now there’s online divorce assistance too.
The Silicon Valley start-up Wevorce aims to change the legal process from one driven by lawyers to one powered by software. Wevorce just launched a national service that uses surveys, video tutorials and webcast consultations to keep divorces out of the courts.
The approach appeals to people like Andy and Norma Desepte. Andy Desepte said the couple doesn’t want a judge imposing their next court date or, even worse, “each of us independently having a lawyer that directs you to a point that creates conflict.”
Wevorce directs them to an online survey to figure out the archetypal role each partner plays: divorce initiator or follower; money spender or manager. Their shared mediator assigns homework accordingly, and brings in other experts, such as a financial adviser in Idaho.
“He was conferenced in using meeting software, and we could see his face on the screen as he walked us through the spreadsheet,” Wevorce mediator Sally Cooperrider explained.
Wevorce advertises fees from $3,500 to $15,000 – cheaper than many litigated divorces, more expensive than a totally do-it-yourself one.
Wevorce founder Michelle Crosby is a divorce lawyer. But she’d never set foot in San Francisco’s divorce court until I asked her to make a firsthand comparison of her approach to the conventional one.
“You don’t need to go through a metal detector to get married,” she said. “So my question is: Why do we have to go through metal detectors to uncouple?”
She was struck by the first couple we saw in Courtroom 404, confused about where they would litigate for custody over their daughter.
“You can imagine when a judge has to decide that for you,” she said, “the amount of tension that is going to be there when those parents meet to transition their daughter from mom to dad.”
Crosby said the Wevorce software translates legalese like jurisdiction into simple words that parents can understand, and plugs agreements — like where the kids go for Christmas — into an online calendar.
Such an online approach might work just fine for the most amicable of divorces, said family lawyer Javier Bastidas, who was in court too.
And paralegal services already exist to help when couples only need help only to find their way through complicated legal documents.
“But usually there is some kind of sticking point between a couple in the midst of a divorce,” Bastidas said. “Custody is usually a very contested issue. It’s very rare that you get parents who agree on every point.”
Parents fight over important issues such as which school or church the kids should attend or which doctor they should see.
Other times a couple will fight ferociously over such seemingly trivial issues as who gets the wedding china.
“People are so bitter — and there’s a lot of high emotion going on — that they want to fight,” Bastidas said. “And they don’t care about the money that they’re throwing at the courts.”
No technology can erase the human need for courts, Bastidas said.