The Texas Supreme Court is pushing forward with a movement to create simple, fill-in-the-blank forms to allow Texans to get a divorce without paying the high cost that sometimes comes along with hiring attorneys, reports the Houston Chronicle.
The concept itself isn't new; Texas is only one of thirteen states without the forms. And the benefits are obvious. This will allow those who are too poor to afford attorneys to go ahead and end a marriage that no longer works. It could be especially beneficial in relationships with the unfortunate combination of domestic violence and inability to afford to pay for legal counsel. Ending failed marriages as quickly and cheaply as possible is obviously a good thing.
So why are some opposed to it? Family Law is incredibly complicated. It is an amalgamation of contract law, divorce statutes, real estate law, child custody matters and healthcare issues, usually made even more complicated when accounting, retirement accounts, and estate planning matters are added to the mix.
While forms may work for those who have no assets and no children and no complications, those cases are rare. Allowing simple form-based divorce increases the chances of parties not understanding their legal rights and thus possibly forfeiting those rights.
The Wall Street Journal took a tongue-in-cheek stab at what the forms might look like here, which though humorous, also lends credence to another problem. The issues from couple to couple vary so much that designing a one-size-fits-all form could be a next to impossible task.
Inherent issues aside, accepting that the trend is to move towards template forms, why not take the next step? Technology makes everything easier. Imagine what a well-designed app could do to revolutionize, reduce the cost involved, and increase access to, the field of Family and Divorce Law.
Twenty years ago, you had to go to an accountant to get your taxes done. In all likelihood, they would charge you a fortune. Now, online and software based tax services, along with the IRS’s embracement of e-filing, have revolutionized tax filing for the vast majority of Americans.
The same could be done for basic family legal services. Or could it?