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UK'S First Online Dispute Resolution System Set to Launch in Spring 2016

Published: 5 January 2016

One of the largest providers of relationship support in the UK, Relate, are set to launch a new online dispute resolution (ODR) system this Spring.

The ODR system, which will be the first of its kind in the UK, will be aimed at separating and divorcing couples to help them resolve their differences in a more positive and non-confrontational way.

The new system has been developed by a Californian based ODR specialist called Modria, who previously built the groundbreaking Rechtwijzer system in the Netherlands - the first of its kind in Europe - for resolving family disputes online.

The Rechtwijzer system launched 12 months ago and was developed to assist the country's legal aid board by offering divorcing couples end-to-end legal support through self-help tools and advice and by giving couples an "online environment" to allow them to negotiate a separation which ends with a legally-binding agreement between both parties.

Relate hope that their new system will act as a "single point of access for information and support for all families before, during, and after separation" through their interactive online portal which, unlike the Dutch system, hasn't received any form of funding from the government and has instead relied on a variety of different sources including funds earned by reaching the finals of last year's Google Impact Challenge.

Relate are also seeking extra funding to expand on the functionality currently included in the Rechtwijzer system to include extra features to make it safe and accessible for children. Relate have also had input on the new system from national family law organisation Resolution, which is currently in 'beta' and is being tested by a number of Relate's London based clients.

Director of Policy and Communications at Relate, Joe Korner, said "We are developing a version of the Rechtwijzer system with Modria for use in the UK. We are trying to provide, as much as we can, a one-stop shop for people going through separation."

"There is nothing in the system which actually requires the involvement of mediators or lawyers - it is a technology-facilitated negotiation process. However, if a couple get stuck when using it, then can access legal advice, mediation or support online or offline. Our mediators are trained to try and find common ground and help people to come to conclusions together."

"We are hoping to roll it out in the spring in a soft way, we will keep on working on it and improving it for another 12 months before making it available to everyone."

Mr Korner added, "There is an urgent need for separating couples to access something that brings everything together in one place. Lack of legal aid means people can’t necessarily get access to the courts in the way they traditionally would have done."

If you are thinking about separation or divorce then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our team of experienced family law specialists will work with you to deliver practical solutions and the best possible outcome for you and your family. For more information, or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation with a member of our team, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford) or email info@kjsmith.co.uk.

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