Most people going through a divorce could probably do without the stress and expense of endless consultations with a lawyer. Now, some—in the U.S., anyway—can consult with their iPhones instead.
A new company out of Dallas, called DivorceApps.com, is selling iPhone applications aimed at helping people who “can’t afford the services of a lawyer and need to help themselves,” says family lawyer Michelle May O’Neil, its co-creator. O’Neil’s company, which launched in March, sells two apps through the iTunes store (both cost US$9.99). The Cost & Prep app helps people “calculate the hidden costs of divorce,” she says, from the “double cost of housing,” to extra kids’ clothes, down to “how much it costs to park at a lawyer’s office.” It also helps create a list of necessary documents, saving money on “the back-and-forth with a lawyer,” O’Neil says.
Another, called Estate Divider, helps couples keep track of who gets what, including alimony. More apps, like a calendar to help exes set the dates and times they take care of the kids, are on the way.
Lorne MacLean, managing partner of MacLean Family Law Group in Vancouver, doesn’t know of any divorce apps tailored to Canadian law—yet. “We’re looking at creating an iPhone and an iPad app,” he says, to help people understand the process of divorce, get articles and updates on developments in the law, and provide tips for better results.
Maybe because they’re so new, divorce apps don’t seem to have sparked a backlash in the legal community. People in Canada can, in some cases, get divorced without a lawyer, but the apps’ designers insist their creations aren’t meant to eliminate lawyers from the process, only to make it simpler. In fact, some lawyers are using them, too. Jimmy Verner, a Texas lawyer who created a child-support calculator app, says he’s heard of lawyers using his app in court, “walking up to the bench and saying, ‘Here’s how much [my client] should owe.’ ”
When O’Neil got an iPhone, “it seemed there were so few apps [with] real-world applications,” she says. With the iPad and iPhone 4G, the divorce app category is expected to grow. For many people, after all, divorce is as real as it gets.