June 29, 2012

Why plans for a new divorce app should come with a health warning

By Peter Jones, Partner

Just a couple of weeks ago a previous Jones Myers blog post highlighted the dangers of parents using smartphone and tablet apps to spy on their children.

Now we hear of plans for a “divorce app” as part of a £14m scheme run by the Department of Work and Pensions to support separating couples. Ministers will encourage partners or ex-partners to use the web-based programme to help deal amicably with potentially acrimonious separations.

As said by 18th century poet Alexander Pope, a little learning is a dangerous thing. The implication, that a small amount of knowledge about a particular area leads us to believe we are expert in that area, was never more pertinent than in this case. This new app, providing guidance on how to avoid fighting in front of children, organising child support payments and coping with new partners, should come with a health warning.

Scratching the surface with help for wives who are dumped for a younger woman, for example, is actually the reverse of helpful. How on earth can a downloadable computer programme address the raw emotion and anguish that is almost invariably associated with the early stages of a painful separation?

Couples who have the will and foresight to forge an amicable way forward can find all the information they need already in the public domain – from one of the many existing online resources or any specialist family law firm, especially those which offer mediation and collaborative law.

The Government should be congratulated on its efforts to reduce the burden on our courts and encourage sparring couples to work towards an amenable solution, but this app is not the answer. It could in fact increase costs for couples who sail blindly into complications with financial settlements and access agreements, thinking that they have all the support they need from a widget. Such issues are invariably much more challenging – and thus costly – to unravel the longer they are left unaddressed by experienced solicitors.

As the Jones Myers team has previously indicated, such a significant Government investment could be much better directed towards setting up centres of excellence staffed by experts in family law, counselling and child psychology. Such an initiative would provide a genuine, inclusive resource, guiding families towards a workable solution to continue their lives and provide optimum support to their growing children.

Tell us what kind of support would help you get through a family crisis?
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