Legal tech start-up aims to make DIY divorces easier and cheaper

Platform initially aimed at women as they are more disadvantaged by existing divorce process than men

Divorshe founders Neil Halstead and Fernanda Lopes.  Divorshe started out as a college project but the founders quickly realised they were on to something and decided to take the idea further

Divorshe founders Neil Halstead and Fernanda Lopes. Divorshe started out as a college project but the founders quickly realised they were on to something and decided to take the idea further

 

Divorshe is an online platform designed to make DIY divorce proceedings quicker, cheaper and easier to understand. Initially, the marketing efforts will be targeted at women as research shows they tend to be more disadvantaged by the existing divorce process than men, but the platform can be used by anyone and is expected to be up and running by September.

The brains behind the platform are Fernanda Lopes and Neil Halstead who met in September last year on the master’s programme in entrepreneurship at Trinity College. Divorshe started out as a college project but the founders quickly realised they were on to something and decided to take the idea further.

“I had had a random chat with a friend who is a solicitor and they had mentioned that this area of family law lends itself to digitisation,” says Halstead who studied management science and information systems at Trinity and has spent the last 10 years in product development and product management roles in Dublin, London and the United States. Lopes has a background in business entrepreneurship and established a number of businesses in her native Brazil before moving to Ireland in 2015.

Better experience

“Much of the innovation in legal tech has focused on commercial law and helping law firms run their businesses more efficiently and effectively. However, not much has been done to leverage technology to deliver a better experience to the customer,” Halstead says. “Our product is lowering the barrier to accessing legal services and shifting the power balance that ordinarily exists between the client and legal system.”

However, Halstead stresses that Divorshe is a process, not a substitute for legal advice, and aimed at those involved in amicable and uncontested separations who want to handle things themselves.

Divorshe is not the first DIY divorce platform but its founders say its simplicity of use sets it apart. All of the information related to a couple’s divorce proceedings is put together in one place in clear, non-legal language and the step-by-step instructions, progress tracking and document automation technology are designed to demystify the divorce process and reduce the time it takes to complete the legalities. Another advantage is that customers know from the outset how much the process is going to cost them. There are no unexpected bills at the end. However, as this is still a very early start-up, the actual pricing has not yet been finalised.

Frustration

But why the focus on women? “Because two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women and our research highlighted that often it is women who struggle to access legal services when a marriage breaks down and there is currently no one targeting this specific segment of the market,” says Lopes.

“Our research showed up three main problems women face when accessing legal services: time, lack of clarity and cost. The length of time it can take to complete the process is a source of much frustration and people perceive that a lot of time is wasted pushing paper around the system. Often, the steps involved in the divorce process are unclear – what information and documents do couples need to gather and prepare, where does the paperwork need to be submitted to and by whom and so on, and thirdly, solicitors’ fees are expensive and for many this can act as a barrier to getting divorced.”

To date, the development of the Divorshe platform has been propelled by sweat equity but a €10,000 injection from the current Trinity College Launchbox accelerator, in which the founders are participating, will provide the wherewithal to develop an MVP for trial and feedback. “We see this as an internationally scalable business,” says Halstead. “The underlying platform can be easily extended to jurisdictions beyond Ireland and we are already exploring a number of European countries we would like to expand into.”

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