February 6, 2019 1:45 pm
Updated: February 19, 2019 1:22 pm

Couples going through a divorce seeking out alternatives to court

WATCH ABOVE: An app aims to help couples manage and organize co-parenting decisions around the kids. Kim Smith explains.

A A

View link »

A growing number of couples seeking divorce are taking matters into their own hands, according to experts. People are looking for alternative dispute resolutions, exploring self-representation and using apps in their divorce process.

Story continues below

READ MORE: Here’s what ‘divorce selfies’ are teaching us about amicable break-ups, co-parenting

Karen Stewart, founder of Fairway Divorce Solutions, said the first two months of the year are often the most popular time for couples to file for divorce.

“We see applications for divorce and people making decisions to divorce usually after family holidays. So often after the Christmas holidays, spring break and summer,” Stewart said.

“You’ll see an increase in January and February, in the fall, and usually in the spring.”

Alternatives to court 

Six years ago, Jonathan Verk went through what he calls “a horrible litigated divorce.” He said if he could do it over again, he would want to avoid so much time in court.

“As bad as it was for us, it was devastating for our kids who, for four years, watched their parents pitted against each other in a deliberate adversarial system,” Verk said.

READ MORE: Divorce hurts teens more than it does children, study finds

Stewart said more couples are looking for alternative dispute resolutions, such as mediators.

“Really you’re saying: ‘We’re not going to go to court, we’re not going to file affidavits, we’re not going to throw statements of claim and use the system. We’re going to use a methodology and use people to help use make decisions,'” Stewart said.

“That’s super great, especially when we’re talking about families and the ability to co-parent.”

Going to court solo 

For people who do end up in court, there’s a growing trend for people to file their own actions and represent themselves. Stewart said one reason is that people are looking to save money in this economic climate.

“You’d be amazed at the number of people in Canada that are self representing,” Stewart said.

READ MORE: Want a divorce? Why you should tell your spouse and give it time

Sherrill Ellsworth, a former American judge with 10 years’ experience presiding over family court, said about 75 per cent of divorce cases in Canada and the United States have at least one litigant who is representing themselves. 

“It’s an incredibly complicated area and they’re trying to go through it and navigate it on their own. It’s almost impossible,” Ellsworth said. 

There’s an app for that 

In light of their own experiences with the legal system, Verk and Ellsworth created an app called coParenter to help parents manage, organize and document co-parenting decisions around the kids. 

The app was officially released in early 2019, aimed at separated, divorced and never-married parents. It also includes access to a live professional who can mediate agreements and resolve disputes.

“In that family law courtroom, I found I had limited tools to help these families dealing with the most difficult time in their lives,” Ellsworth said. 

READ MORE: Heartbroken and bankrupt — why divorce can destroy your finances

She said one of the problems of divorce court is a majority of issues presented are not legal issues. 

“I’ll hear a domestic violence case with all these complicated issues and the very next case might be: ‘I don’t want my child to eat food that isn’t organic.’ How does that belong in a courtroom?” she said.

One of the aims of coParenter is to keep those non-legal issues out of the courtroom. 

“The tool would have predicted and helped us prevent some of the low-level simple conflicts that impact so many people,” Verk said.


Want more ways to keep up to date? Check out the “Family Matters” podcast! If you haven’t subscribed yet — what are you waiting for?

Subscribing’s easy! Here’s how…

On your iPad or iPhone:

  • Open the Apple Podcasts app, search for Family Matters and select it from the list of results.
  • Once on the Family Matters page, click the “Subscribe” button to have new episodes sent to your mobile device for free.
  • Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

On your Android Phone or Tablet:

  • Open the Google Podcasts app, search for Family Matters and select it from the list of results.
  • Once on the Family Matters page, click the “Subscribe” button to have new episodes sent to your mobile device for free.
  • Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.