In the Netherlands, couples have access to a site established by the Dutch Legal Aid Board to help them negotiate a divorce settlement, child arrangements and child support. The site is known as Rechtwijzer, which can be translated as ‘conflict resolution guide’ or ‘signpost to justice’. It was established in 2007 and upgraded to version 2 in 2012 and presently handles around 700 divorces a year.
So how does it work? Both parties begin by answering a series of questions covering basic information and their views on the options that are available. In the background, the ‘robot’ employs complex algorithms to process the data in order to put forward proposed solutions to the situation to assist those using it to find a way forward. Human assistance is still available. If they wish then the parties can in addition use the services of a mediator and if no agreement can be reached (said to be in about 5% of cases) an arbitrator will make a final decision.
Does this herald the end of the human divorce lawyer? I don’t think it does. The Dutch system does not offer legal advice. As with other dispute resolution options that are available, such as mediation, once a settlement has been reached it is beneficial to then seek legal advice on that proposed settlement before finally committing to it. Lawyers can also provide help in ensuring the settlement reached is made binding and enforceable.
While this system does offer another tool or option available for separating couples to consider, when resolving disputes there can never be a ‘one size fits all’. What works for one couple will not necessarily work for the next. For online savvy couples with limited assets, Judge Robby may be the answer. However, there are others who will prefer a human being to guide them through what can be an emotional experience.
Time will tell if Judge Robby makes it over to these shores but, until then, if you need to know your options about divorce and the various alternatives available to help resolve family disputes then contact one of our family law team.