What is a robot divorce? Divorce can be expensive and quite tricky to navigate. In Australia, before divorce matters are seen by a court, parties have to go through mediation. This is partly to save families the cost and stress of a court battle, and partly to ease the strain on the court system. Yet family law matters still appear with regularity through the courts and high conflict divorce remains an issue. This is where a new computer system – robot divorce – may help.
What Is A Robot Divorce?
We have come a long way since Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” fiction. Technology has increased at an astounding rate over the last few decades and will continue to increase exponentially into the future. The doubling of computer processing speed every 18 months (known as Moore’s Law) is one such example of this. But are we ready for advice from a computer system to help us handle divorce disputes?
The Netherlands certainly think we are ready for robot divorce. They have a working system in place for family law issues and and the resolution of child support matters. It is an online platform that that users negotiate divorce settlements, parenting arrangements and child support. The automatic calculation of child support may come as a relief to many families, where child support payments are deliberately missed or reduced. When it comes to parenting arrangements, such a computer system may offer enormous savings to families who face no other option than to go to court.
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This Dutch technology is also being rolled out in Canada and the UK. Canada ismoving the technology into debt and tenancy issues. The province of British Columbia will be using it initially to set-up an online Civil Resolution Tribunal to deal with condominium disputes. Suzanne Anton, the province’s Minister of Justice says, “If you had a complaint about noise or water coming through your ceiling, you might have to go to the Supreme Court,” spending years and thousands of dollars to get a ruling.
That’s where robot divorce can play a part – helping families to avoid the expense and stress of having to go to court for a resolution.
Rechtwijzer – Roadmap to Justice
The technology is called Rechtwijzer (Roadmap to Justice, pronounced wrecked-visor) and is similar to eBay’s system. It uses algorithms to guide users through a series of questions and explanations to help them reach a settlement. The dispute resolution software is helpful in getting people to work out a resolution in conjunction with their respective lawyers.
Bevan Warner, from Victoria Legal Aid says that it is more than just a robot and can handle sensitive cases. For custody matters, for example, it will ask the ages of the children to be sensitive to their development needs. It remembers who you are and gives proposals based upon predictive results on what other people have achieved in the resolution when they come to separate. The technology simply provides another step in the process – a robot judge before escalating to a human judge in the court.
Robot Divorce Future for Australia?
Mr Warner thinks that robot divorce is a positive move and is calling on Australia to adopt the idea. He pointed out that Australians have embraced technology for shopping, communicating, dating, house hunting, work and leisure. Why not for legal proceedings? “Let’s face it: court proceedings can be slow, confrontational and painful,” he said.
It is a system that is moulded around a particular country’s or state’s laws. It is not transplanted from one community to the next, but rather ‘grown’. Mr Warner said the system’s machine learning was developed within the justice system as it was already present in other industries and settings. “For instance, Google reportedly can predict the outbreak of influenza in particular locations by analysing the intensity of searches around headache and cold symptoms,” he said. “It was Australia that brought the combine harvester to the world that revolutionised agriculture and it was WiFi that’s revolutionised the way in which we interact and connect to information. . . So we’re the 16th-largest economy in the world with a proven record of innovating in oil and gas and mining innovation. There’s no reason in my mind why we can’t lead the world in using these adaptive technologies to close the justice gap.”
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Rob Hulls, from RMIT”s Centre of Innovative Justice went to see how the technology worked in action. It is a technology that would allow access to justice for the many who cannot afford it – who fall into the ‘justice gap’; hose who can’t afford court proceedings. Mr Hulls said particularly in family law matters, the best agreements were those reached by individuals working with their trusted lawyers, not imposed by others. “Many, many people in our community simply can’t afford to take their family law matter to court. . . Many of them forsake their legal rights altogether. Many don’t qualify for legal aid. If we think outside the square and embrace online dispute resolution, it means that access to justice becomes a real thing for many, many Australians that miss out at the moment,” says Mr Hulls.
Ultimately, robot divorce won’t completely change how family law matters are handled. Divorce, property settlements and parenting arrangments will always be sensitive and delicate matters that require the advice of experienced and empathetic family lawyers. Relationship breakdown is always unique – there may be domestic violence issues to consider, children with special needs, parents with chronic health issues and so on – and a one-size-fits-all approach to family law cannot work. But the concept of a robot divorce as another option that may prevent costly, stressful court proceedings may be a useful tool for many families.
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we don’t want anyone to miss out either. We don’t have any robots, but we do have experienced, friendly family lawyers who offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Please contact us today!