There’s an App for That: How Technology and Smart Phone Apps are Making Divorce Less Adversarial
Divorce is an inherently complicated and lengthy process in most states, and families bear the burden of high financial and emotional costs, especially when children are involved. Easing this emotional distress over the course of a divorce can be difficult, especially when children are involved.
A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses how a number of new smartphone apps aim to make the divorce process more collaborative and less adversarial. These apps, often developed by family law attorneys, judges, and divorced parents, encourage teamwork around parenting plans and help to keeps things civil by building stronger communication around important issues like events with children, scheduled appointments, childcare costs, and court dates. One app, OurFamilyWizard, even analyzes communications and provides an “aggression rating” when people are being overly aggressive with their co-parent partners.
These apps might not solve all the problems related to divorcing with children, but according to Lisa Abrams, an Arizona Superior Court family court judge in Pima County, she often orders parents to choose an app to help keep track of communications and their children’s schedules. Judge Abrams believes that such apps have had a positive effect on the children and their parents:
“When you see parents split and they’re effectively able to communicate and not put the other parent down, the kids acclimate so much better.”
Beyond just increasing teamwork and communication, these apps can also help by keeping our courts more efficient and less crowded. By keeping close track of communications and childcare costs, parents can avoid conflicts over who is at fault or who should pay, keeping them out of the courtroom and focused on working together. An app called coParenter also provides 24/7 mediation support from attorneys via text, allowing parents to resolve conflicts without the need for a judge.
Some smartphone apps can be expensive, and may not provide the support that some parents need during their divorce. However, they offer the opportunity for parents to communicate and work together, which is crucial to an amicable divorce, especially in cases where parents choose to represent themselves.
Courts also have an opportunity to embrace technology within the family law realm. IAALS’ Court Compass project has recommended Eighteen Ways Courts Should Use Technology to Better Serve Their Customers, and we have compiled an inventory of technology offerings in use or in development in courts around the country. Utilizing new and existing technology in family court is essential to creating a more efficient and effective model for assisting families that supports them both inside and outside the courtroom.