Court Compass

The family justice system was built on the assumption that litigants would be represented by lawyers. But more and more people in family court—the place where most Americans will interact with the justice system—are navigating the legal system without attorneys at their side.

Our Cases Without Counsel study of self-representation in family court confirmed that many self-represented litigants cannot afford an attorney and that the court process is very difficult without legal help. In consideration of these findings and others, including well-established national data on self-representation, IAALS launched the Court Compass project to explore user-friendly, streamlined, and accessible solutions that help people through the divorce and separation process—even when they cannot afford or choose not to hire an attorney.

Technology is an essential component of a streamlined and simplified process. Digital solutions can empower litigants with tools, information, and assistance to navigate the process. As part of the preliminary Court Compass research, IAALS held a convening in 2016 on technology-enabled tools for litigants that highlighted the challenges of current (and often disparate) technology solutions and the opportunities for increased integration between these solutions. 

Following the event, IAALS compiled a database of court technology offerings in production or in development around the country. The high-level findings and summary analysis were published in Mapping the Future of User Access through Technology and accompanied by maturity models to guide and facilitate integrated court solutions. This research helped identify both existing court resources and existing opportunities for innovative system solutions. But technology alone is not enough to overcome exceptionally complicated processes. To make the process simpler for litigants, we must first simplify the process.

To this end, the Court Compass project is directly incorporating court users in the process of designing family justice system solutions. In partnership with experts at Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab, Northeastern School of Law’s NuLawLab, and the University of Maine School of Law, IAALS is conducting in-person design workshops and other focus groups to test new processes and solutions in real time and refine them based on user feedback.

If you represented yourself in a divorce and are interested in participating in our Boston, Massachusetts, or Des Moines, Iowa, working group, please visit our participant information page.

The end goal of the Court Compass project is to redesign and simplify the divorce process, making full use of the existing technological landscape and emerging tools and technologies. By providing court users a Court Compass to navigate the process, IAALS’ hope is that self-represented and represented parties alike can access a better process and achieve better outcomes.

Divorce can be stressful. You can help us make the process better and earn a $150 gift card. Join our upcoming workshops.
In June 2016, IAALS convened a group of people from around the country to discuss the development of an online tool designed to help people with...
Our studies show that the court system does an insufficient job helping people navigate their way through the system to resolution. People feel...