Access to Justice
Will Divorce Apps Increase Access to Justice?
It really is true when they say that there’s an app for everything. A new Canadian mobile app called Thistoo claims to be ‘your personal divorce assistant’ and aims to help self-represented couples by giving them access to a variety of online resources and tools. Thistoo also features a function that will automatically fill in divorce application forms and provides couples access to an extensive database of over 58,000 previous court cases.
The paid version of the app went live on February 19 of this year and was created by 30-year-old law school graduate Samuel Witherspoon, and his Ottawa-based technology company, Miralaw. The app is expected to roll out across Canada later this year, and then in selected US jurisdictions by 2017. The app currently charges about $20 Canadian for a divorce application and $189 for a separation agreement.
According to Mr. Witherspoon, the purpose of the app is not to replace lawyers and conventional legal practice, but to focus on those people who would otherwise not be able to afford a lawyer and are ineligible for government assistance. He also insists that the app is not designed to encourage divorce, but merely to reduce the stress and anxiety that can accompany a major life decision. The app is only designed to facilitate an uncontested divorce. If any issues are in dispute between the parties, the company will match clients with an approved list of lawyers and mediators in their vicinity.
In Ontario alone, from 50 to 70 per cent of family law litigants are self-represented, according to the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body for lawyers in Ontario. In other jurisdictions across North America, that number can be as high as 80 per cent. Mr. Witherspoon hopes that the app will help to reduce the number of court cases, and to ease the burden that self-represented litigants place on the justice system in Canada.
If you have questions about divorce or other family law matter, please contact family lawyer Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.