In my previous article I described the process of developing a legal tech tool that is applied to an existing platform. I created a bot that is automatically prompted to reply when a Reddit user is considering getting a divorce. If you would like to read more about the bot click here.
The Reddit divorce bot provides the original poster with legal information that could be helpful when the topic of divorce pops up. As most of the Reddit’s demographic is American, the information that the bot provides had to applicable to citizens of the United States. During my initial prepping for this project, I was expecting to easily find a portal that embedded (legal) information of all the states on divorce. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
QUICK, EASY OVERVIEW ON DIVORCE IN THE NETHERLANDS
If you google requesting a divorce in Dutch, one of the top results is the following page: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/scheiden/vraag-en-antwoord/scheiding-aanvragen
This governmental website provides basic information on divorce. I have annotated the print screens. The information on divorce is written in a clear-cut manner. The website has a clean, minimalistic look which helps users tremendously when they have to read up on a complex topic.
The main website of the Dutch judiciary also provides general information on divorce.
Two of my favorite headers on this website are the calculator that calculates the provisional court fees and timeline that illustrates the average amount of time that a divorce proceeding takes. Small things like this provide the person who wants to undertake a divorce with security and transparency.
Similar to the Dutch websites, I wasn’t planning to provide in depth information on every legal question that comes up when the topic of divorce arises. I merely wanted to provide basic general information. People who are considering a divorce are about to embark on a difficult and stressful road. The general information that courts or other governmental institutions provide can be beneficial in the process of reducing the stress that a user of the legal system encounters when he or she first starts researching the topic.
I’m well aware that the United States is a federal state, where each state has their own rules that govern divorce. Nevertheless I had high hopes of finding a portal that linked to divorce information per state. My main rule was that the information should be from a governmental institution, preferably a court.
Unfortunately, I could not find a non-commercial platform that offered legal information per state. Most of these websites were linked to law firms or other commercial platforms. I wanted to provide free and independent information to Reddit users.
In the United States almost all states have either a court or governmental institution website that provides basic legal information. However I wanted all these sites to be organized per state and per topic. This is why I decided to create my own portal that links to legal information on divorce for each state.
I needed the following to create this portal:
- A map
From a user standpoint, the easiest way to navigate a site when the information differs per location, is to illustrate it in a map format. This makes it user-friendly as the user is able to see at once where he or she can find the information that is applicable to their location.
2. Court websites
The legal information the map refers to are mostly court websites that have general information on divorce. Luckily the Legal Design Lab has created an inventory of court and state based legal self-help portals.
The quality of the websites I visited varied. Unfortunately there were some sites with limited functionality in both design and content. However, there were also state websites that were excellent in providing users with clear legal content. Examples of such sites were those of Pennsylvania and Maine.
These websites are easy to navigate, have clear designs and most importantly there is straightforward general information on divorce proceedings. Hopefully in the future all governmental or court websites that house legal information will improve their content and design. The changes that have to be made do not have to be immense. Small minor tweaking can already improve the user experience. The Legal Design Lab offers more information on how to redesign legal self-help websites.
The following summarizes the use case: the user posts their problem on reddit.com/r/relationships. A commenter suggests that a divorce might be an option in their specific case. My bot is prompted and replies with legal tools. This includes a link to reddit.com/r/legaladvice, but also to the Reddit Divorce Map. This map (click here) provides the Reddit user with an overview on all the states and their specific court based legal self-help site regarding divorce.
Click here to check out the live version of the platform: https://redditdivorcebot.firebaseapp.com/
The map can be further developed by including different countries in the world. It would be neat to have an interactive map that focuses on a specific legal topic, for example divorce, for all the nations. For now, I’m going to let the divorce bot run and collect data. With that data I’m planning to evaluate how well this tool works and implement any improvements. Stay tuned for part 3.