One of the main reasons divorces are expensive and an emotionally devastating is trials. Once a trial begins, the couple enters a spiral leading to a total collapse of trust. Specifically, the trial system encourages the following
- Greed for demanding maximum benefit from your partner. Some times the lawyer fees are tied to the client’s share of the assets, so it is a very much zero some game.
- Demonizing your partner, as the Collaborative Family Law Group of Florida writes: “These two gladiators [the couple] are trained to search out and exploit the peccadilloes of the opposing party.”
Trials are also costly for the state, and the broader society. Trials have the following effects:
- Constrain an already clogged legal system,
- Create economic inefficiencies by adding or increasing legal expenses for a citizen, household or a business. (Efficiency of Justice and Economic System, Marilene Lorizio and Antonia Rosa Gurrieri)
We recognize that there are good reasons a trial may be pursued. For example, a trial may provide security from an abusive spouse. However, there are also instances where a couple pursuing a contested divorce can educate themselves on the law and see if they can reach a settlement without a trial. In fact, the entire legal system fosters settlements outside the court. The mediation system is aimed at that and is fulfilled by private companies, usually attorneys, providing mediation services. In conclusion, if a couple was informed what the likely outcome of a trial may be, is it possible that they may reconsider their stances for reaching an agreement?
Our hypothesis is “yes!”
Demand for Learning from Historical Cases
So our folks already searching for these resources. Looks like “not really”. Here are some stats how how often certain divorce related terms are Googled for
Search Term: Divorce property division
Number of search queries: 590 per month
Search Term: Divorce with children
Number of search queries: 390 per month
Search Term: best states for divorce
Number of search queries:170 per month
Search Term: divorce outcomes
Number of search queries: 30
Stats are for January through August 2017
Which leads us to our next question: Why on earth are people not searching for this
Our hypothesis on this issue is that people don’t know that they can. It’s a market waiting to be created. The pioneer in this are has been LexMachina which describes it’s core software purpose as: “Lex Machina provides Legal Analytics to companies and law firms, enabling them to craft successful strategies, win cases, and close business.” However we want to apply the same idea for family law
We think historical cases can help address the following queries for clients
- What are the outcomes of divorces like mine ? Similarity of marriages would be based on
- Income level
- Assets and debts owned
- What are the case types in which the father receive the child custody ?
- In which cases was the property not split 50-50 ?
- Or what can a client do to mitigate the situation. For example in the Payne vs. Payne, the limitations on mother were waived in spite of
Historical cases my help lawyers particularly recent graduates with the following
Or could lawyers use this data to see cases matching their next client
- Did anyone else have a divorce in circumstances matching my clients ?
Or would a potential client or lawyer directories like Avvo look at cases as signal of a lawyer’s experience
- Which lawyers helped fathers who went on to take child custody?
Problems in Creating a Market
The problems around historical divorces cases are:
- Access: The divorce records are not available to the general public in an easy or free way
- Usability: There are no technology tools to search for cases similar to your. Ideally it should be as easy as searching for similar music on YouTube
- Limited Info: Even if the cases are found, the court records usually capture the tip of the iceberg, and not the complete story
We have been debating within JDivorce team is how to make historical data “usable” for an average citizen. The conclusions are
- Make it as simple as searching for Youtube Videos: for searching for cases similar to one’s own: Users can enter criteria e.g. the state and county they are filing in, whether they have children, the net worth of assets acquired during the marriage and a few other items.
- Tell a story from the facts. Court documents contain a series of facts often buried in verbose text. The gist is often hard to grasp. We want to make that as simple as a human would describe it.
- Visualize the facts
- Make the attorney names visible. It may help future clients narrow down to an attorney suitable for their case faster. For clients, often a factor that inspires immense confidence in the attorney is the knowledge that the attorney has successfully dealt past cases in a similar way
So this fall, we plan to launch our feature aimed at providing everything about past cases, called “Hindsight” !