"For better or for worse, technology has made it easier for people to split," said Avvo's general counsel and consumer advocate, Josh King.
Avvo helps users connect with a local lawyer of the customer's choice to complete the paperwork for the dissolution of a marriage. If more help is needed, the lawyer can provide additional counsel for an extra fee. But these packages are not for everyone, King said.
"The critical thing is that you don't have a lot of disagreements or complicated externalities," King said. "These products are designed to cover a wide range of people that have a fairly routine legal problem."
And as these tools that aim to achieve a more efficient — and affordable — divorce gain steam, experts warn that divorces are rarely that simple.
"If they have no assets and no children, you can do one of those divorces, no harm, no foul," said John Slowiaczek, president-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But far more often, couples have other issues including alimony, child support, retirement accounts, real estate, student loans, investments, taxes, credit cards and so on, he said.
"It's never that simple," Slowiaczek said. "Couples argue over the Christmas decorations; it's always about getting in the last dig and that's why the Pro Se divorces or divorce apps don't make sense."
In addition, the laws in different states, and even counties within a state, vary. Although all states now have "no fault" divorce proceedings, some jurisdictions still take into account the grounds for divorce when dividing assets, said Justin Reckers, a certified financial planner, divorce financial analyst and CEO of WellSpring Divorce Advisors. And there are often nuances to marital assets as well, like their future value or opportunity cost.
"Worst case scenario they try to do it themselves and screw it up," Reckers said. "In most jurisdictions, a division of assets and debt is final and you cannot change it unless both parties agree."
In addition, couples who skip legal representation can be a source of frustration for judges when it comes time to sign off on a settlement agreement, Slowiaczek said, particularly if they haven't completed or filed their paperwork correctly in advance of their court date. "The one thing divorce judges will tell you is that they are very frustrated when people come to their court without an attorney."