Need a Divorce? Wevorce will help you do it online!Joseph Palmieri
Thursday, July 30, 2015
We all know someone who is divorced, divorcing or thinking about it. For most, it is a profoundly unpleasant emotional experience. While it is important to recognize that a divorce is a complex process involving a vortex of emotions, a divorce is also a legal process. For couples looking to “uncouple,” the traditional legal dissolution of a marriage presents many difficulties including high costs and time-consuming procedures. Fortunately, the recent emergence of online divorce services such as Wevorce, indicate that the process of obtaining a legal document which declares an end to one’s marriage may be more difficult than necessary.
Before delving deeper into the philosophy behind Wevorce, it is worth noting that this upsurge in online divorce services has come at a time during which there has been a call for reform in legal services and accessible justice. In Canada, the Final Report of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters has brought attention to the need to implement change in the area of family law. The report makes several specific recommendations for improving the family justice system such as employing less adversarial resolutions and taking more holistic approaches to legal issues. In response to these calls for reform, several innovative projects are attempting to rethink the family justice system in a way that puts the user at the heart of the experience. For example, the Winkler Institute’s Family Justice and Mental Health Social Lab aims to develop a prototype that will benefit clients in the family justice system who have low incomes and mental health issues. Against this backdrop, Wevorce –a San Francisco-based company that is a leader in the online divorce services industry— offers an interesting and innovative model that rethinks the way family justice can be provided in divorces.
Wevorce was launched in 2013 with the purpose of settling divorces without hefty legal fees and custody battles. The site uses computer software to engage couples in online alternative dispute resolution with lawyers and other professionals to promote more amicable divorces. Wevorce primarily uses technology to make the process more convenient. Instead of meeting for negotiations and planning, spouses can simply log on to their iPads, computers or smart phones to virtually interact with their Wevorce team. These arrangements are particularly geared towards spouses who are living in different areas. With this unique platform, Wevorce situates itself, and is able to compete with four prominent divorce service websites in the United States. It is one of the least expensive options. The following information was taken from the Wevorce website:
- $ DIY Divorce. This option is the cheapest way to divorce. If you have been married for a very short time, perhaps fewer than four years, have no children, do not own any property, have very few marital assets and agree with your spouse on pretty much every aspect of your divorce, you can probably get away with a do-it-yourself divorce and pay only the filing fees. Typical costs are less than $500 per couple. Some courts have inexpensive DIY packets you can purchase that include detailed “how to” instructions from how to fill out the paperwork with your agreements to waiting periods to the process necessary to finalize the divorce, though many people find the number and scope of forms dizzying.
- $$ Mediated Divorce. Professional mediators charge an average of $300 per hour, per couple. If you and your spouse have only a few issues to hammer out, you may need only one or two mediation sessions. Couples with more complicated estates or child residential schedule issues will need more time with their mediator and will pay more. Typical costs are $2,500 to $5,000 per couple.
- $$ Wevorce Divorce. Wevorce couples pay an upfront fee and receive a shared attorney-mediator and access to a team of professionals, including financial and parenting experts. Depending on your situation — the length of your marriage, your parenting situation, the size of your marital estate, the number of sticking points between you and your spouse — you will pay between $3,000 and $15,000 per couple, for a Wevorce divorce. The typical cost is $4,500 per couple.
- $$$ Collaborative Divorce. Cheaper than a traditional litigated divorce, the collaborative divorce still includes two attorneys and allied team professionals, so it is a more expensive option than a mediated or Wevorce divorce. Typical costs are $15,000 to $25,000 per couple.
- $$$$ Adversarial (Litigated) Divorce. Typically, this divorce is the most expensive. The average adversarial divorce in the U.S. costs between $20,000 and $40,000 per couple. However, these costs can rise dramatically for couples with high levels of conflict. Consider that each attorney will charge an average of $350 per hour and then factor in the time it takes each attorney to prepare for the initial hearings, conduct a formal discovery process, attend meetings with the other lawyers, gather expert opinions, draw up a settlement and come to a formal agreement (Read the full text from the site here).
In the article, New Website ‘Wevorce’ Eases Grueling Divorce Process, ABC News explains that “[although Wevorce]… can’t save your marriage, they can save you time and money” – a message clearly relayed by these comparisons. The company’s co-founders, Michelle Crosby, a former lawyer, and Jeff Reynolds, a marketing executive, created a 5-step process which make this a reality.
In the Wevorce model, divorcing couples come together under the direction of a lawyer-mediator, known as a “Wevorce Lead Architect.” The Architect is responsible for organizing meetings with financial, mental health and parenting experts. This process is generally tailored to each couple’s individual needs. For instance, couples with children will be guided through a process of developing their own estimate of how much each aspect of childcare will cost. In “Foundation Building Meetings,” couples are paired with specialists to learn how to communicate better and maintain peaceful interactions In “Parenting Planning Meetings” couples learn about creating a healthy family environment for children and, in “Financial Mapping Meetings” couples assess and separate family assets. For those with special circumstances for example, couples going through a divorce while one partner is in the military, or parents of children with special needs, there are separate programs, guides and experts available to assist with overcoming case-specific challenges. At the program’s end, couples are involved in “Document Prepping” to ensure that the final agreement is up to legal standards and they are also assisted with the filing of any court papers, if needed.
From an access to justice standpoint, there are clear benefits to using Wevorce. As aforementioned, Wevorce’s technology component saves time and money which is significant bonus for busy or middle-class families. Moreover, Wevorce enables individuals to take more control of their divorce which would normally be a largely lawyer-controlled process. Participants are more aware of where their case stands, where it is stuck and what steps remain. Finally, the ability to involve other professionals is the perfect example of the multi-dimensional approach to delivering access to justice, suggested by the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. Instead of segregating the legally relevant matters, other unavoidable aspects of a divorce are simultaneously dealt with, including concerns about parenting and sustainability.
The Wevorce solution is not flawless. For example, the cost of divorce is going to vary depending on each marital situation and as such, Wevorce cannot be a solution for everyone, particularly given that, as previously mentioned, the average cost of a “wevorce” is $4500. Additionally, the program requires couples’ willing participation and would be inappropriate for victims of domestic violence or those who do not feel safe in the presence of their spouse and need the protection of the legal system.
Nonetheless, Wevorce still brings accessible justice one step closer and stands as a paradigm of change. Wevorce may have its shortcomings but its founder leaves great advice for any justice stakeholders looking to implement new ideas and change the landscape of legal services: “Swing for the fences.”