By Paul Blinov
In his work as a divorce lawyer, Tim Mallett often hears the same request from his clients.
“‘All I want is this done as quickly and cheaply as possible,’” he recalls. Which is, of course, easier said than done: the cost of a typical divorce in Canada can range into the thousands (or more) depending on the complexities of the situation. And that’s not factoring in all the time and energy spent on the runaround: finding a lawyer you trust, working around their schedule, standing in line-ups to file paperwork, and every other step involved can quickly add up.
So Mallett, alongside fellow lawyer Melanie d'Haene, founded Undo (undo.ca), a completely online resource to streamline the complexities of the divorce process. Currently, it’s available for use in Alberta and Ontario: Undo starts with a series of questions about one’s particular situation, and from there, can generate everything necessary to complete a divorce application.
In its simplest version, Undo helps with basic calculations, like property and debt division and spousal & child support. In its full-service take, Undo gathers the necessary paperwork, has a lawyer review the documentation, and sends a commissioner to you to sign everything before delivering everything to the courthouse for you.
“It can take a long time to get that stuff together,” Mallett explains of the usual process. “We tried to really focus on making things make sense as much as possible, because this is a very complicated process — trying to just simplify things, make them look good, and make decision points as simple as possible for the people using it.”
To develop Undo’s tech side, Mallett enlisted Edmonton-based digital agency Lift Interactive to build the software. And after opening Undo up to users last year — 1000 people have signed up, while about 50 have used it to finalize their divorce — they’ve further tweaked the product to make it as user friendly as possible.
“We’re getting pretty good feedback on the intuitiveness of the process,” he says, adding that new features — such as a call to action button, that pairs the a user up with a lawyer — are on the horizon based on feedback they’ve received from users.
Response from the judicial side has been promising too. Mallett sees Undo as a way of assisting an overburdened system that, in some cases, can feel like an intimidating, uncomfortable fit.
“Traditional ideation of the lawyer role is [that] you’re like the gladiator in combat,” he says. “And that’s not a conducive environment to try and help a family. There’s that element [of] should people even be in this arena? Aren’t there other ways we can deal with this?”
In streamlining the divorce process, Mallett doesn’t see Undo as detracting from divorce lawyers’ necessity. While Undo has some tools for by spouses who have not yet reached an agreement, he notes that the service isn’t ideal for people who find themselves in a particularly acrimonious situation with their partner, or if there’s a large, complicated property situation involved. But for those who are aren’t facing those hurdles, and are looking to get through their divorce with speed and simplicity, Undo offers a new path through a difficult undertaking.
“There are a lot of people who are saying, ‘We basically have a deal in place, we just want you to review it and make it formal so we can know this is done, put to bed,’” Mallett explains. “Those are the main people we’re trying to help.”
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