Family law is among the fastest growing practice areas in the legal profession. And why shouldn’t it be? Dealing with family matters can be some of the most sensitive and stressful situations faced in a lifetime, and when someone needs help with a domestic legal issue, it will likely have an impact on every aspect of their life.
While the legal process is relatively consistent as a whole, different practice areas face their own unique challenges - and family law is no different. This is also true from a technological perspective. Family attorneys may have similar needs as other types of practices, but they have some unique legal technology needs as well. For this post, we’ll be focusing on tools used by divorce attorneys.
When most people think about family law, divorce is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Even with the most cordial of relationship terminations, determining how to divide assets will inevitably take a great deal of effort and is very likely to be the cause of heated debate among parting couples. There are a number of legal software solutions that perform the complex calculations that can help attorneys determine child support and spousal support payment amounts, the division of assets, and any related tax implications.
In an interview with Daily Record, Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Jody D’Agostini explained that legal technology software can help clients visualize how different arrangements work out in the long term and can bring a more calculated, logical perspective to a very emotional situation. “Divorce financial planners look at the tax impact of their alimony, their child support, and their income, and ask: What does your financial world look like one year from now, three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, and, especially if you’re divorcing later in life, in your retirement?”
Here are three of the more popular financial software solutions for family attorneys:
- Divorce Financials by Easy Soft was praised by Michael A. Gould of Rotenberg Meril in a Family Lawyers’ Magazine for allowing his firm “to generate tax-optimized settlement scenarios in all 50 states” and “provide the best scenarios for alimony and child support to our clients.”
- In the same article, Nancy Chausow Shafer, family attorney and principal at Chausow Shafer, PC, recommended Family Law Software for how broadly they cover all the financial issues in a divorce case. “It not only computes guideline child support in my state (and 20 others plus all of Canada), but it also allows me to see alimony and property division options to create complete settlement scenarios and variations.”
- In another article, Shafer also recommends using the iSplit Divorce app for visually dividing the marital estate in mediations. After entering various assets and liabilities, attorneys can simply “move them back and forth between the parties’ sides of the screen. With each move, the totals automatically adjust.”
Custody Management & Communication Tools
A second tech tool for family lawyers centers around the creation and tracking of child custody arrangements, as well as helping manage the sometimes difficult task of getting parents to communicate about their children. When children are involved, cooperative communication is not only advisable, but essential to provide the best scenario for the kids affected by the divorce.
Undisputedly, the best legal tech tool in this sector is Our Family Wizard. This product is focused more on streamlining and organizing communications between divorced parents to ensure that the child’s well-being is prioritized. In their assessment, the ABA concluded that Our Family Wizard “provides parents with a single location for every type of parenting tool,” including “calendars to court information to educational and medical records.” One of the most helpful features is the ability to provide specific access levels to various family members, including grandparents and the children themselves, as well access for third-parties, so lawyers and counselors can be kept abreast.
In fact, Our Family Wizard is so effective that judges will often order contending parties to exclusively use the tool for communication and scheduling. Retired Judge Barbara M. Meyer from the Circuit Court of Cook County, IL, sometimes took this approach in particularly volatile situations, and was very pleased with the results. "In my experience, communication improved, and as a result there was a positive focus on the children. The feedback I received from attorneys and litigants was encouraging. Everyone involved in these cases felt that Our Family Wizard was a benefit in placing the emphasis on the children rather than the animosity between the parents.”
Another popular option is Custody X Change. This tool allows parents to customize visitation schedules, track time and expenses, and maintain medical and school information for each child. For attorneys, Custody X Change can perform calculations of time spent with each parent and help design a personalized parenting plan.
Legal Case Management
Last, but certainly not least, family attorneys can gain a lot from using a case management system. Because these types of cases tend to be so highly emotional, it can be difficult to keep all the stories straight and the facts organized. Moreover, people in highly emotional situations can also be unpredictable. A robust but easy-to-use case management system can help bring order to the chaos.
Since there are so many legal case management solutions available today, I’d like to focus on two case management features which are most relevant to family attorneys:
- Fact Chronologies - For every case an attorney takes on, there is a flood of information that must be managed. For example, to help attorneys tackle this complexity, CaseFleet helps manage all the facts, parties, and issues of a particular case, keeping everything organized, accessible, and under control. When attorneys make a timeline, documents and other sources of evidence can be tracked and associated with particular issues, including dates and times.
- Task Management - Having a task manager integrated directly into the case management system can exponentially increase a team’s productivity and minimize gaps in communication around a case. Such tools enable lawyers to schedule tasks for themselves and others, track due dates and late tasks, receive notifications on assigned tasks, and more. Additionally, tasks can be tracked with legal calendaring tools alongside other events and deadlines, and an Activity Feed allows all team members to get updates on the case in real-time.
These are just a few of the tools available to family attorneys today. If you have any others family law legal tech tips, please share them in the comments below or shout out on Twitter @CaseFleet!