On the latest episode of Recode Decode, Recode’s Kara Swisher spoke with divorce attorney Laura Wasser, whose past clients have included Kim Kardashian, Johnny Depp, and Angelina Jolie. Wasser charges her normal clients $850/hour for her services, but those who can’t afford that rate can check out the online divorce company she has started, It’s Over Easy.
“People are shopping online,” she said. “People are dating online. People are banking online. Why wouldn’t they want to get divorced online?”
Currently, It’s Over Easy only operates fully in New York and California, where she said 18 to 20 percent of the nation’s divorces happen. Wasser hopes to be in all 50 states by the end of the year, but conceded it may not make business sense to invest in smaller states like Rhode Island.
In addition to providing users with the necessary forms to get legally divorced in their state, she said It’s Over Easy will provide other services to separating couples, relating to moving on and continuing to take care of their children.
“You’re going to be dealing with that person, particularly if you have kids, for a long time. So there are certain things that we could add to this,” Wasser said. “Right now, we have a co-parenting calendar. ... Let’s put it all in one place, do it all in an app. Get the nanny looped in if she needs to be looped in. Get the grandparents looped in if they need to be looped in, and at some point even loop the judge in if you end up in front of him or her.”
Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Laura.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, editor-at-large of Recode. You may know me as someone with advice for any “Star Wars” fan in an unhappy marriage, may your divorce be with you. In my spare time, I talk tech. You’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast Network.
Today in the red chair is Laura Wasser, a very famous divorce attorney who has become unusually famous for someone in her line of work. That’s because she’s worked with some of the biggest Hollywood stars in their divorces. We can talk about that in a minute. Laura, welcome to Recode Decode.
Laura Wasser: Thank you for having me.
I know it seems unusual that I might have a divorce attorney — I’m not looking to divorce, I have been divorced — on my show. But you were moving into tech space, correct?
As us over-50s are wont to do, into the tech world.
The legal profession has been slow, too.
We have been very slow.
Besides using various documents, stuff and things like that. We’re going to talk about that and more with Laura. Give me your background. Give your background. You started where? How did you get into this line of work?
I started here. I’m from Southern California. My dad is a family law attorney. Although, if you had asked me when I was a teenager, “Do you think you’ll ever be A) a lawyer, B) a family law attorney?” I would have just said, “Oh, god. Never, never, never, never.” I actually got divorced after about 14 months of marriage when I was 25. I was waiting for my bar results and I needed the dough. I went to my dad. I said, “Can I clerk for your firm while I’m waiting for my bar results?” and I never left.
It’s actually a fascinating field of law. You really get to know about somebody, about human nature, about how somebody is. When you do it in this industry, the entertainment industry, you get to learn about a lot of people that you never would have any occasion to meet. Stevie Wonder’s someone I call a close friend. Whether it’s political, whether it’s financial, whether it’s entertainment-based, you really delve into these people’s lives for about six to 12 months, and then you’re out. It’s super cool.
I found a niche and I liked it. I’ve done it for about 25 years. At the beginning of last year, I realized ... or, before that, I realized ... Last year, we launched It’s Over Easy, which is an online divorce site, which I am hoping will change not only the way people go through their divorces but how we approach divorce itself.
Let’s talk about how we approached it previously. Talk about that a little bit, about what the ...
It’s one of these ...
Is that a ...
Is that a word?
It’s an adverb, but go ahead. Crappily.
The way that we look at it is this horrible taboo, failure, miserable. Look, it’s not fun and it’s not easy, as I say, even though the company’s called It’s Over Easy. What it is is something that’s happened to about half of the people we know who are married, in which case we kind of have to accept that it is happening.
How can we do it better for ourselves and most particularly for our kids? Looking at it in a way as, “Hey, this was a time period of my life. I was romantically and intimately involved with this person. I got to know him or her very well. We had children. Now what do we do to not necessarily be sleeping in the same bed every night but to continue being partners as co-parents, perhaps with some of our financial issues as well?”
The reason it’s done so well is because it’s done in a way that’s so analog. It’s lugubrious and slow and takes years. Talk a little bit about that.
Again, this is a system that is broken. It’s broken in the legal system. When I was turning 50 and I was looking at my career and how it had gone and really having enjoyed it, I thought, “You have two choices: you go legislature or you go to some kind of tech app that can hopefully fix it.” The first way seemed also rather slow.
Talk about how long does it take to get divorced? Getting my divorce was ridiculous, and we had no problems. It was a ridiculously long time.
California, which is where you guys got divorced, it takes six months. We have a six-month waiting period. Even if you walk in, file the paperwork, and say, “This is our deal. It’s done,” you still have to wait six months before a judicial officer will stamp it and it’ll be done. I often tell clients and users of It’s Over Easy, “Don’t worry about that. Get it done. Unless you’re planning to marry somebody else so quick, in your mind, you’re done and you’ve gotten it done.”
Other states are much quicker. New York State is 30 days from the day that you sign the final papers. As we’ve all heard, Nevada’s super quick. What I want it to be more about is what the parties have decided that they want to do. There has to be an exchange of information that makes sense. The forms are super complicated. We’ve tried to make them less complicated. If you use a mediator or somebody that’s doing collaborative divorce, somebody that can help you get through it and explain what all of these very complicated forms basically mean, the bottom line is, it’s not that difficult. What people have to remember is that family law attorneys make money from conflict.
I say that to people all the time. “Guys, I make more money if you can’t agree who has Wednesday nights. If you can agree on who has Wednesday nights, come to me. I’ll write it up. It’s not going to cost a lot of money. Or better yet, write it up yourselves. I’ll show you where to put it on the form. Submit it to the court. Done.”
One of the ways that it had been done with innovations in legal was mostly just, “Here are forms,” and it’s still incomprehensible. You get, “Here are the easy forms for a contract. Here’s the easy forms for a lease.” Divorce, it’d be something nobody would think of doing in an online space.
I think people have thought of doing it, but it’s been too difficult. There is also that human touch aspect. Most people want to know that there’s somebody on the other end of the phone line, computer pad, whatever it is. That doesn’t mean that they necessarily want to pay to valet park and come up to a consultation in my office for $800 or $900 per hour. There has to be a happy medium. When we came up with It’s Over Easy, rather than just being a form provider, we also have a whole education site with people that write blogs and contribute and talk about things that have happened to them and professionals that do financial planning or co-parenting planning, all that kind of stuff. You can actually get a little educated about it.
Then we have people on the other end that can talk you through it if you need some help. We don’t give legal advice, but we can say, “This is what this form means. Here’s what date of separation means in your state.” All kinds of pop-ups of me talking, YouTube video ask-style explaining things. Then we also have a third component to the site, which is a referral directory called The Index. The other thing that I have found doing this is it doesn’t end when you’re divorced and I signed my thing saying, “Bye-bye. Thanks for the money.” They need people to help them with nannying. They need people to help them with moving. They need people with helping them ...
... figuring out their budget. Then they need people to help them get back into the dating world again.
Oh, you have dating things?
We provide all of that.
Walk someone through using your site for a divorce. Again, this is not something people think of as a digital area.
I think they are thinking of it more, though. We have a partnership with LegalZoom. People go on LegalZoom in New York and California right now and they just are automatically redirected.
Explain what LegalZoom is for ...
LegalZoom is a site that is the biggest, I think, tech law site. If you need a will, you can go on. It provides templates. You fill it in, you submit it. Employment contracts, LLCs. It has been very difficult for them to get into the family law world, because, as you said, it is really complicated. There does need to be a little bit more of an educational element to it. So, we gave that. Like I say all the time, people are shopping online. People are dating online. People are banking online. Why wouldn’t they want to get divorced online? You come on our site, and we don’t make you sign up or pay us right away.
What do you do? You get on the site ... explain the walkthrough.
You get on the site and you play around a little bit. You want to read about a blog, you want to read about somebody that had ...
Like what? What would you have on?
There’s one that I wrote. Content. One of the things I wrote is “Co-Parenting With an Asshole,” basically. Because people, even whether they’ve already ...
Asshole is a good topic.
Whether they’ve been divorced or not, if somebody’s not doing things the way you do them, then it doesn’t seem right to you. I find that happens especially with us moms. We want to do it the way we want to do it, we want to control it. Then we want to complain about the fact that they’re not doing it the right way. They don’t drink their milk at his house. They don’t brush their teeth at his house. Okay, but they’re still having a relationship with their other parent. That’s probably more important. There’s a blog about that.
Then I’ve got people that are financial wizards who have said ... I said, “Dumb it down for normal people. They’re not going to pay your all-day rate. Write me an article about what you should be doing to prepare for getting divorced. What you should be putting aside, what you should be thinking about, how much you should be spending, etc.” Anyway, they can read about it. They get familiar. They want to do it. Fine, whatever. Then they will fill out their petition, which is the first step. They invite their partner to join. This really is a mediation site.
Wait, you invite ... like, “Come divorce with me”?
Yes. My guess is they probably already knew things weren’t going well and had decided to get divorced. I have people call my office at my firm all the time and say, “Look. I love you, but you’re too expensive for my assistant or my sister or my whoever. Do you have ...”
May I ask what you charge? What is a typical high-level divorce lawyer? I mean, not the Angelina Jolie price.
No, everybody has the same price. Everybody has the same price. It’s an hourly rate. I believe that for the past seven years, I’ve been $850 an hour, and I was told by my partners that they really think I need to up it to $900. I think, “God, I hope I say something that’s really fucking smart for $900 an hour.”
$900 an hour. You’re trying to destroy this fantastic business you ...
I’m not trying to destroy it. There will always be a need for people who can handle complex litigation, complicated if there’s a move-away case. You can’t just work that out.
Rich people are different than you and I.
No, no, no. In fact, they’re ...
You’re a rich person. Wait a minute.
What it is is, again, if you have more money, more problems. If you have more assets, if you have a very complicated income stream of companies or commingling assets or even child custody stuff, it’s not easy to figure out what’s going to happen if you’ve got two kids in California and the other parent wants to live in New York. You can’t just split the baby, so to speak. Those are going to be complicated.
To the extent that people can figure it out themselves, they should. I’m not worried about continuing the legacy of this family law firm. We’re going to be fine. I do believe that the majority of people, rich and poor ...
A lot of what happens in digital is people taking advantage of getting rid of the friction that was always there, whether it’s music or anything else.
Like you discovered when you guys went through mediation, if you have to come to the table and solve your problems on your own ... which, in divorce, you’re best-equipped to do. You know your kids better than any judge is going to know them. You know your finances better or you will get to know your finances better. Sit down with a legal pad, figure it out, plug it into the site, move on.
You can read about a variety of topics, and then what happens?
Then you can actually download ...
You invite your ex-partner to join.
Then you will exchange the information, which in all states is absolutely mandatory. You must disclose. You have declarations of disclosure. “Here’s what I have or what we have. Here’s what I owe or what we owe. Here’s what I make, and here’s what I spend, or we.” There’s four corners of it. That has to happen in any divorce. You have to exchange that information.
Long-term marriages, it’s all the same. You’ve been married this long, you have this much money, you have this many assets, you owe this much to the bank. Here’s what we make. Here’s what we spend. You exchange that information. You come to terms with it. Some person says, “No, there’s no way that that house is your house. We got that house together.” “No, we got that house when I was about to marry you, but we hadn’t married.” You hash that out.
On the site. All digital.
All digital. I mean, you could be in person and do it together, but you can literally do it when one person’s here and another person’s in Dubai. I don’t care.
Taking notes on it.
Exactly. You can flag if you didn’t get the same answers, and then you can talk to ...
”If one person’s in Dubai,” did you just say that?
I don’t know. I picked a really far place that I’ve never been to before.
How about New Jersey?
Or New Jersey. Or incarcerated. We have some of those, which is good. It’s hard to get together with a mediator if they’re in prison.
It’d work well for prison divorces.
Anyway, and then you come to terms with something and you come up with a deal.
Then you’re editing it like a Google Doc, essentially?
Then you do what? You finally come to an agreement about it and then what?
Depending on which package. We have a $750 package, a $1,500 package, and a $2,500 package.
The more you pay, and again, none of them’s more than $2,500, the more we do for you in terms of taking your documents, taking them to the courthouse, getting them filed, paying your court fees. You want to do it yourself? Give us the $750. We’ll give you the forms. You still have access to the full site, but you’re going to be going to court, you’re going to be serving the documents, etc. For the full premier package, the $2,500, we pay those court fees, we serve your spouse. Again, it’s not going to be jumping out of the bushes, “Ha ha, you’re served,” because he or she’s going to know we’re coming because you’re on the same page. Then it gets done, and then you’re divorced.
Then that’s it?
You never leave your couch.
Then that’s it? You don’t have to visit anyone and stuff like that? Why did you think this was a area ripe…? Just because it’s such an onerous way to live, essentially, or to divorce?
Because I do believe that there is an easier way to do it. I wrote a book in 2013. I guess that was my foray. I have so many friends that have nowhere near the money that my clients have, who’ve said to me, “What have you seen? What have you learned? What do you know?” This has always been my theory, which is, this isn’t a fender-bender. You’re going to know this person, probably, for the rest of your life. Better figure out a way to get along with he or she, because you’re going to walk down the aisle, go to college graduations, be in the delivery room. I watched my parents do it in the most respectful, civilized, wonderful way. I’ve watched them, as an adult, with my kids and what I’ve done.
That’s what I preach, and that’s what I practice. I have two kids with two different dads. We don’t have a piece of paper between us. Now, again, I don’t recommend that. I can do it, because I’m a family law attorney and because the relationships we have are very special. But I know it’s possible. I know it’s possible to get through this, raise really well-adjusted kids, handle financial matters, have everybody for Thanksgiving, sometimes do a bit of a family vacation crossover together, and have a really good, meaningful life where your kids have a lot of people that love them and care about them.
I mean, I think the way it’s been done, I want to talk about it in the next section, has been ... the analog way it’s been done does promote not getting along. It’s interesting that tech could be a solution for that. Are there any glitches that happen on this site, then? People just have to agree, and then you have to click together?
If you hit a wall, because of The Index, which is our referral, you can go meet a mediator that you hire that has nothing to do with our site, but we’ll refer you to him or her. Spend an hour or two with somebody really talking through the benefits of parochial school versus public school versus private, non-denominational, whatever. Go through that. See if you can figure it out. If you can, great. Then you go back to the site, you figure out what you’ve put in there, where the kids are going, legal custody, etc., and you file it.
You all put it into the legalese that’s necessary?
Yes. Really, most of the states have boiled it down on forms. There is a couple of pages that we’ll have to help you write up in some states. For the most part, yes.
How many people do it this way now? I mean, talk about the numbers, because people don’t think of divorce in that fashion.
Well, it’s coming along. We launched in January. We have completed, I think, over 300 divorces thus far, so that’s 11 months. I know that’s ...
This is just in California.
No, no. This is in New York and California.
Oh, okay. So this is ... you all have to have the ability to do it in those states, right? You can’t do 50 states.
Well, we will do 50 states by the end, hopefully, of 2019.
Okay. But talk about ... you can only do it in two states now why?
Because out of everything else that I’m very good at, tech is not one of those things. So I’ve had to hire outside people to come up with the tech and get us up to speed so that we can download the forms from other states. I also don’t know the law in all the other states.
But you can practice in all the other states.
I can’t. I can only practice in California, but you don’t need a lawyer to get divorced on It’s Over Easy. So you don’t have to have any interaction with me at all, at least not as an attorney. Because it’s kind of a mom-and-pop shop, I will sometimes be up in the middle of the night on the phone with somebody going, “No, you need to push this and this is how you can get back into the system,” or whatever, but not as a lawyer. We don’t give legal advice.
Mm-hmm. Talk a little about getting to more states and globally, because presumably, you’ve got to get people to get used to the idea of doing it digitally, which they do everything else digitally.
Right. And it’s been pretty quick to pick up. Again, I think some of that has been the help of our friends at LegalZoom. But also, it’s been quick to pick up because people ... look, they’re not leaving their houses. They’re doing everything online. So when you order all your Christmas gifts online and they show up ...
Which the people used...
Exactly. And you do your banking, and so then you’re like, “Why wouldn’t I just do this? I don’t have to see him in person. I don’t have to go to a lawyer.” Most of the time at my firm ...
And do the sit across the table thing.
Yeah, the thing like from Wedding Crashers where Rebecca De Mornay says, “Don’t you open your mouth. Don’t you talk to me.” He’s like, “Wait, what?” Greatest scene ever.
Divorce lawyers are always really awful in movies.
It’s really speaking about the media.
By the way, a lot of us are awful in person, too.
Okay, good to know, good to know.
Think about the kind of person that wants to become a divorce lawyer.
It’s like a meter maid, divorce lawyer.
Yeah, exactly, okay. Are they the same thing?
I don’t know, I don’t know that many meter maids, actually, but they could be nicer. There is a problem inherent to the fact and, like I said, I say it all the time, with somebody who makes money from conflict. Now, there are fabulous family law attorneys that I have met in this process, not only that I’ve known most of my life here in Southern California, but in Northern California, in New York, and then the other states that I’m branching out to, I have called on people that are kind of at the top of their field and said, “Hey, this is my thing. Check it out. There’s a video. What do you think?” And without exception, every single person that I’ve approached has said, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” Now, if they were all horrible people that were just trying to turn their fees, they wouldn’t be saying that. We all want some change. We all want people to approach things better. We all want to be problem solvers and get it done.
Are there people that have gone to the dark side? Yeah, there are. But most of the people I came up knowing, because again, my dad did this, and so I met his colleagues. And the people that have been in our community are really great people, smart, wise ...
But still, inherently, the analog version is conflict.
Yeah, or settling conflict. You can have a client that is just absolutely so difficult to deal with. Those people are not going to be the people that use It’s Over Easy, they won’t be able to.
Okay, so you have 300 just in New York, how do you ...
No, California and New York.
California and New York, I’m sorry. And they have to just download the forms. That’s all you have to do to get people to use it in the different states.
And know a little bit about the law there because even if we’re not giving legal advice, we have to be able to tell them you’ve got six months before this, or here’s the courthouse that we’re going to file your documents in. One of the big problems and why it’s been so hard to get arms around this is, even in California, there’s so many different counties and each county has its own different, not forms, but the courtrooms have a different way of doing things. Los Angeles Superior hasn’t even gotten electronic filing yet. That’s how difficult it’s been. So it’s really, really a big project.
So you actually physically bring it down there?
Yeah. Now, that’s not the case in Santa Barbara, I mean you can electronically file in several other departments in several other outgoing courts. But the biggest one in Southern California is Stanley Mosk downtown, and we’ve been working on it for a long time. It’s a huge project.
So why is that? Talk about that because part of your business is filing. You’re going to lose money if you have to hand-deliver documents to courts and get them Bate stamped or whatever.
That is true.
Is that what it’s called, Bate stamp?
Yeah. Well, no, that’s not Bate stamping. You’re getting confirmed copies. Bate stamps is the number so that you can say, “I gave you 47562.”
Yeah, I once dated one of those people who does that.
A Bate stamper?
Yeah, a long time ago.
It didn’t go well.
It was like somebody that works in a toll booth.
Maybe they had a really good imagination.
What is it called when people work or law firms but they’re not a lawyer?
Paralegal, that’s what they did.
They were a Bate stamper?
Yeah. Do they do that anymore?
Oh my god.
We’re going to talk about why law is so behind, in general. You have to physically bring things down still for your business?
But we have process servers. We have guys that we work with on motorcycles and — zzzt — they get down there, they do it. But yes, eventually you will do electronic filing everywhere and that will make things simpler for everybody.
What’s been the slowdown for that?
There’s just so many and we don’t have a ton of funding for it, federally or state-wide. And so we’re just getting up to speed.
Right, getting up to speed in terms of what we’re going to do. All right. What states are going to? All of them this year?
Or where the most divorces are.
Interestingly, 18 to 20 percent of the divorces in the US happen in New York and California.
California is, absolutely, by far the highest.
Then New York.
And at least six of those are Donald Trump’s, but go ahead.
And then it drops. Then the rest of the states, you’ve got like, I think, Florida, Chicago, Texas ...
That’s because that’s where the people are, right?
Right. Well, that’s where the people are and that’s where higher divorce rates are. We may never be fully operational in Rhode Island because it may not necessarily make sense. We will probably have a downloadable version of it that we can still help people. So right now, it’s just kind of getting up to speed. So I believe that in January ... and we have also done a bit of an Uber. We won’t go statewide in some of those, we’ll do cities.
“A bit of an Uber.”
A bit of an Uber on that. Rather than going all of Massachusetts, we’re going to do Boston. We won’t do all of Florida just yet, we’ll do Dade County, which is Miami. We’ll do probably Chicago in Illinois and, I think, Denver, Colorado. The biggest cities that get divorce in. We’re doing Houston in Texas, we decided, because they have the biggest divorce rate, even bigger than Austin or Dallas.
So we’ll launch in those and then we’ll kind of slowly, word of mouth, grow, outward growth. It is kind of a grassroots advertising. We’re using the brand that is me to do some of it. And again, we’re small, we’re a startup. A lot of this has been bootstrapped, the funding for it.
What funding have you gotten? Just you?
Not just me. Friends and family that I’ve either known for a long time, did good work on their divorces, and they really see a need for change and wanting to help. But it’s been pretty much on a shoestring so far, and we’ve done well with it.
Have you approached venture capitalists? You’ve got Mark Schuster here, you’ve got a lot of people.
I even went up to your neck of the woods and had some meetings. They said at the beginning I was too small. I may go out again. I also don’t want to lose too much control over it.
When you say you’re too small, it’s not a big enough ...
At the time, yeah. I mean look, there’s only a certain amount of divorces every year. I do believe that there is kind of a lead gen revenue opportunity on some of the index stuff that we’ve done. And then, certainly, the content, as well. It’s interesting.
When I did my book in 2013, I have never had a publicist before in my career. The publishing house actually got a PR person and so many of the television shows and print media said, “Ooh, we don’t like divorce. This sounds like a really good idea…” It was called It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way. “But, yeah…” And that was ‘13. Now, fast-forward five years to 2018 when we launched It’s Over Easy, everybody wanted to have me on their show, in their ad or whatever because it was interesting and they realized that legal tech is going to eat the world and this is a really good way of approaching it.
So things are changing, but again, I think people were a little bit like, “Well, how do I go home and tell my wife over dinner in my Silicon Valley mansion that I’m putting money into a divorce website?” So they’re waiting to see how we do. And again, smart people that you and I mutually know have said to me, if you can afford to keep this small for now and do it the way you want to do it, then do, because you don’t want to have somebody acquire so much of you that you don’t have the control, that you can’t still give people the kind of content that you really want to give them, and also give them the referrals that you want to give them if that’s what’s important to you.
At the same time, this is very typical for what a startup does. It attacks an industry that’s overpriced and over-bloated, essentially, and hard, purposely hard, makes it easy and cuts prices. That’s the whole point.
That’s how all of them do it, essentially. So when you were talking about an Uber, an Uber for divorce, essentially, how do you look at it?
I think it’s more of a TurboTax for divorce, but the launching, what I was told — and again, I don’t know much about any of this, but I like Uber, I take Ubers — is that when they launched, they would do a city as opposed to an entire state.
Yes, they did. Yes, that’s true.
So that was my point, that I would do Miami as opposed to all of Florida.
Talk about the broader sort of legal environment when you’re thinking ... There is TurboTax for accounting, you have that company doing that. You have LegalZoom doing documents and stuff like that. Talk about the legal profession and its slowness. Like Los Angeles, I didn’t realize it doesn’t have electronic filing. It’s really kind of astonishing.
It is astonishing. Why is the law the last thing to change? Why is it that same-sex couples couldn’t get married until a couple of years ago?
Well, that’s another issue, that has nothing to do with tech or anything.
It has nothing to do with tech, but it is an inability to kind of wrap our heads around what issues are important and make those issues to push forward. And again, divorce has always kind of been the ugly stepchild of law. When my dad first started practicing divorce here in Southern California in the ’60s, it was because young Jewish men, forget women, couldn’t get jobs doing anything but family law, matrimonial, or personal injury. They couldn’t get hired at the white-collar law firms that do taxes and all that downtown.
White shoe, I think they call it white shoe.
So that’s what he went into because it was the schlepper version. And then he rose to the top of his field and he actually represented Billie Jean King in what was the first galimony/palimony case.
I remember that.
So there is a field, but we’re not curing cancer or anything, we are doing something that I believe that will make it easier for people. And I talk to so many people that are our age that said, “Oh, my parents went through a horrible divorce and now I’m going to go through a horrible divorce.” Why should that be? Breaking up sucks, there’s no question about it. But we’ve all been in a relationship and broken up and we’ve prevailed, and withstood, and moved on. Why are we so reluctant to change the way we approach this and do it the way it sounds like you and your ex did it, me and my exes have done it. It’s not fun, but it is certainly something that we need to figure out how to get through for our kids.
If you think about it, if you insert a screen between you, even though now screens are so decried, that’s the latest thing is to...
Oh, believe me.
It does create a distance that is probably appropriate, potentially appropriate.
Yes. I tell people to handle their divorces like a business transaction, because they often don’t. There’s one partner that says, “I’ve got nothing to lose, here she’s paying the fees. I’m going to run this up. I’m going to be hysterical. I’m going to argue about that coffee cup all day long because I can.” Taking that out of the equation and saying, “Wait a minute, get all of the emotional and therapeutic help you need. Pay somebody else that’s really good at that, don’t pay your lawyers.”
Because most of us, frankly, don’t know what it takes to get through the grieving process and what the tips and tools are to communicate effectively with your ex. I’ve picked up some stuff over 25 years professionally and personally, but wouldn’t you want to be paying, even at the very highest, $350 to somebody who’s actually got a degree in this as opposed to $850 to me who doesn’t know anything and just keeps having kids with people and breaking up?
When you think about the overall idea of it, you go international? Or is that just too difficult?
Well, no, people have approached me, and actually, this morning I got a letter from a woman in England saying, “I really want to bring this. Can you help us with the app?” I mean, absolutely. It’s ...
So you give an app too? It’s an app and ...
I always say it’s very difficult to get divorced on your phone on the subway, but you can sign up, you can certainly go through the content. You can get the referrals, but you don’t want to fill out an income and expense declaration on your phone.
That would be great. You can date on an app on your phone.
Well, it is an app. When you join, we ping you. The other thing that we’ve had issues with in terms of glitches, you asked, it’s kind of weird to get a ping. Maybe you haven’t told your partner yet that you’re getting divorced and it’s, “Hey, it’s the Over Easy, just checking in. How are you doing?” So we want to be very sensitive to that because it’s private and personal and we don’t cold call. We send emails, but it always has kind of a weird re: line so that people can feel comfortable getting comfortable with us and getting to know us just like you would a divorce lawyer.
Right. In terms of notifications and things like that.
Why couldn’t you get to an app divorce?
The level of information.
It’s just that the forms that the state still mandates that you complete would be really small. You’d have to have a bigger phone. I mean, again, you could totally do it. We have the app available, but probably filling them out, you’re going to need to see them a little bigger.
Right, exactly. So where do you want to take it? So you have 300, you want to get bigger. That’s too small.
Oh, it’s too small. And again, it does take a little while, but we want to make it bigger. I also want to have something that will have a tail on it. Once the divorce is over, we’re done. You can still be part of our community. I’d love it to be that we’ve got a banking app on there so that people can share their expenses and reconcile the accounts together. A communication portal for parents to be able to talk to each other. I have all kinds of great founder ideas and all of my tech engineers are like, “Slow your roll, lady. Let’s just see if we can get into Florida, okay?”
We’re here with divorce attorney Laura Wasser. We’ve been talking about getting divorced online. I think it’s fantastic. I think never seeing people again is a great idea for people who don’t get along. But you do share children and things like that.
You were talking about where it goes because I think one of the things is how we live our lives digitally so much more. And it replaces a lot of what has been sort of onerous scheduling and onerous and dis-coordinated and stuff like that. So you could have a scheduling ... you’re talking about a post-divorce life?
That you all also conduct that.
Because one of the problems with your business is you only get divorced once, maybe a couple. Again, if you’re Donald Trump, you get one several times. But you only have a few of them in you. And so it’s a problem. It’s the same thing with a lot of businesses.
But you’re going to be dealing with that person, particularly if you have kids, for a long time. So there are certain things that we could add to this. Right now, we have a co-parenting calendar. There could be something that allows the user to continue using that co-parenting calendar. And again, the law is always there. You can always, as a backup, run down to court and argue about who had winter vacation 2018 or whatever.
But if you have that somewhere in your phone or computer and you’ve kept the app and here’s where she said “No, no, no, I want this year because it’s my mother’s 80th birthday,” or whatever.
So it creates a trail.
Yeah, so that’s helpful too.
Oh, a text trail.
I think you and I do that even without being conscious of it because I am horrible and I don’t erase my texts, not to have any kind of a trail, just because that’s how I am. So when I say to my ex, “Hey, I’m going to pick him up at 3:00 after his first day of school on Thursday.” And then I forget that I said I was going to do that and the kid is waiting at the school and my ex goes, “Dude, you said you were picking them up. Here’s the text.” If you had all that in one place, wouldn’t that be great?
So it’s that kind of stuff that we use, that we don’t even consciously use it. Let’s put it all in one place, do it all in an app. Get the nanny looped in if she needs to be looped in. Get the grandparents looped in if they need to be looped in, and at some point even loop the judge in if you end up in front of him or her.
It’s not a ... Like there’s been a lot of companies that are trying to do this with elder care and things like this.
Like, the idea. The legal problems around elder care, and then also the care problems of the idea of living your life online.
Can you talk ... I want to go into ... and the last part is talking about the legal profession and it’s sort of ... It’s been one of the few professions that has been resistant to digital, more so than others. Now, there’s obviously LegalZoom, there’s Documents, and things like that, but in general, there still is an analog relationship... I just hired a lawyer for something, and I was like, “Do I need a lawyer?” I guess I did, and I didn’t want to need a lawyer, you know what I mean?
Part of it is ... And I’m not advocating for people to give up on lawyers. At some point, you may need somebody who really is a specialist in their field to be able to give you sound advice. And furthermore, represent you and be your advocate in front of a judicial officer. That may be important.
And you don’t want to mess it up at the early stages by going, “Oh, I can do this myself.” I get clients sometimes at my firm who are like, “I represented myself and I did this, then I did this, then I did this,” and I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to have anything to do with you. Let me send you somewhere else, because you totally messed it up.”
I think there will always be a place for people to get representation that they need and have advocates. That’s important. But I think for some of the smaller, simpler things ... My goal is to make the divorce process simpler for people. And to force people to educate themselves and learn about it for the benefit of their families.
I’ve had so many famous people come to me ... They don’t come to me, they send their assistants. “Can you meet with my assistant?” I said, “I don’t know, is your assistant the legal guardian of your kids?” “Well no, but I’m really busy, and I’ve got a blowout, and I’ve got a lip plump,” and whatever.
I said, “Well then, let me give you the name of one of my colleagues who’s great, but if we’re dealing with kids, I kind of need to meet you. You don’t need to come to my office. I’ll come to you. But you need to be part of the process.” I think everybody should be part of the process. I think everybody should have the opportunity. And so many people that don’t have a ton of money really want to know, and then you’ve got the lawyers that are like, “I’ve got this for you. Let me throw some legalese in here and confuse you, and then I’ll do it.” That shouldn’t be the case, either.
There has to be a happy medium where people own what they’re going through, take some responsibility. We simplify the law and the forms and get it done. And I’m not saying, “Oh, laissez faire, isn’t it casual, let’s get divorced and move on,” and whatever, but let’s realize that if it’s not working out, isn’t it better for kids to see two happy parents alone or in relationships with new people than it is to see miserable parents that hate each other?
Yes, 100 percent. Getting to the larger thing of legal, do you ever imagine ... Because some people are thinking, people talk about the impact of AI, the impact of all kinds of the things. One of the things I always say is, anything that can be digitized will be digitized. And so much of law, including divorce law, seems so digitizable and so not in need of ... Given how complex it is, but these advanced computer and machine learning systems can really anticipate everything and offer things...
Do you imagine that the law, people in the law understand that so much of what they do is going to be replaced?
I am definitely seeing that in ...
And I’m not talking robots, yet. Robot lawyers, why not.
No, no. But I’m seeing ... Look, even my older colleagues. My dad just turned 76. He has been forced to figure out how to use his iPhone. He spent an hour with my kids on New Year’s Day learning how to do the cartoon emojis that talk, of himself, so we get that every once in a while blasting into our house.
When we first all got computers and desktops at our office, there were two or three of the older partners who said, “I don’t want a computer.”
There’s beyond that. So much of what you do -
No, I get it. But even that resistance. So much of what we do, it’s like therapy online. Can people really do therapy online? Can you really have a digital app that explains, “Okay, calm down. Take four deep breaths. Now respond to your partner,” or whatever. Could the same thing happen?
For a lot of it, I think it could happen in law. Are people afraid of that? Some of them are afraid of it and some of them are in complete denial about it. Or figure, I only got this many years left. I don’t care if that happens, because I’m going to be on the golf course by that time, so it doesn’t matter.
Right, and so when you think about law, like law in general, is it ... To me, it’s completely ripe for utter disruption and hasn’t been yet. It has been, a little bit, largely because the legislatures are controlled by lawyers. And they create complex situations. But when you bring in machine learning and self-learning computers, it becomes different. Because you can see a robotic lawyer. You can see a ... So many of these things are so pattern-based.
Totally. And yet ... I mean, look. There has been a bit of a shift over the past 20 years in terms of custody, at least in Southern California. Not so many other states, but even Southern more than Northern. Going, why would it be that the mom should have the kids?
So we have, but slow. So slow. Come on, it’s 2019. Are we really even having that conversation anymore? Why would a father, male, not be as good of a parent as a female, if both of them were raising the kids before they split up? So, that stuff has shifted.
Look, I think there’s always going to need to be a bit of a human touch, and I think that’s important. Rather than disrupting the legal field, which is what so many people have told me that I’m doing, I want to disrupt the family field. I want people, parties, to come to the table from a different perspective, and then say to them, “If you need a lawyer because it’s complex, you say to your lawyer, ‘I’m watching you. And I’m watching your letters, and I’m watching how you interact with the other attorney. Don’t you spend my money getting into a pissing contest with that person.’”
Right. What’s been the reaction to this?
Other lawyers, too?
Other lawyers have said ... Either they’ve kind of patted me and said, “That’s nice. Go help the poor people. We’ll take the rich people.” I haven’t had anybody overtly say to me, “You’re killing our practice,” because the people that I’ve spoken to ... Look, you kind of have to jump on board. You can’t say like, “Hey, you’re pulling back the curtain in Emerald City.”
For the most part, I believe that family law practitioners want to simplify and make it easier for people. There have been a few people that have said, “It’ll never work. People are always going to need somebody there to hold their hands. People are always going to need advocates.”
I think it’s because it’s complex.
It is needlessly complex, and hopefully ... Maybe I’m the tail wagging the dog here, but hopefully the legislature will go, “Maybe we could simplify this. Maybe we could make it easier for people to get through this part of what they’re going through, and then on to the next.” Canada’s completely revamping their system. Alberta. From the inside. From the family, outward.
Making it kid-based. I don’t even think they call it family law. I think they call it children’s rights law, or something like that. But this is for the money aspect, too. They’ve broken down the system. They’re changing the legislature, and they’re taking it from the inside out. All based on kids and what their needs are.
So, I’d like to have our system follow that somehow. My main thing is bringing it to light. Giving people an education. Letting people see how it can be done better. And then, the rest of it I think will fall in line. I’m not as interested in legal tech eating the world as I am ...
You said that, though. You said legal tech eating the world.
I think it will. People have told me ...
What did you mean by that?
I think that eventually you will probably be able to do just about everything legally online. I think people will embrace it and I think that the technology will be better, and so people will do it.
And the litigation that we have in the United States, I hope, will be reduced, and only the really important things will be the things that are tried in front of judicial officers. Because there’s an impossible glut in our courtrooms, too.
Right. Right. Do you imagine there will be AI judges? That would be ...
Some of them actually kind of are. It’s very artificial intelligence.
No, but it’s interesting. Like, I think about it in medicine. I think about it in law. There’s diagnostics. Doctors are just not any good at it. Lots of doctors are. But do you know what I mean? Like, the way that we think of them?
Well, yeah. Wasn’t the first thing when none of us were willing to get into a computerized car to drive us somewhere? I mean, then wouldn’t we let somebody take out our kidney if it was a robot? And then, wouldn’t we let somebody make that decision from a judicial standpoint? That makes me a little bit nervous, frankly.
Because I feel like I would want a real human taking out my kidney and I would want a real human deciding issues ... Important issues regarding custody. Not Wednesday nights, but if my kid had some kind of a disease and I wanted to have some treatment, and then his other parent wanted to have a different kind of treatment, I would want a real person.
I don’t know.
What if it’s a better decision?
What if it’s a better ... Because I don’t know what a better decision is. But I don’t know that I’m willing to trust ... Again, I was born in ‘68. I grew up seeing a person in a black robe that was a judge and he or she was smart and educated and had a heart and did the right thing. That’s what we see in the movies. That’s what we’re supposed to think. Can a robot do that? I don’t know.
It’s really interesting when you think about it, because we have allowed ... We used to wander through stores. And now, the shift is so dramatic, among young people, especially. In terms of how they don’t. And I do not like to. I wrote a whole column. This is what it took to get me in a store.
Don’t talk to me, don’t offer me ... Did you read A Visit From the Goon Squad?
No, what’s that?
Okay, it’s by Jennifer Egan. She also wrote Manhattan Beach, which is ... It could have been a totally different author. But it was ... You should read it. It was about ... Again, I think she wrote it 10 or 15 years ago. It’s about how there’s going to be this device that everybody uses that we hold in the palm of our hands and we use it for everything. Well, that’s become our phones.
But it was interesting to talk about how people didn’t want to go into stores. They didn’t want to have any interaction. And there’s a young woman who’s interviewing for a job, and she meets the person that she’s interviewing with at a bar, and they’re face to face, and she says, “Do you think we could just text this interview even though we’re right here?” And that’s kind of what we’ve become. You’ve got teenage sons. Me, too.
Yes they are, at a party...
They all sit in their rooms together texting each other!
They were at our New Year’s Party, staring at their phones. It was very funny. I took them all away. I took them all away first thing.
So, last bit. Even though it’s not a digital thing, what are the key things to remember when you’re getting a divorce? I think it’d be really good. What are the key things on the site that you recommend? Besides not being a hateful jackass.
Well, that is the first thing. Don’t be a hateful jackass.
By the way, folks, this is not only on the site, but this is if you are a client of my firm, as well. Remember that this is a person, A) that at some point you loved. You loved enough to marry. You loved enough to procreate with if you have kids. Remember that this person is probably somewhere around 50 percent of the DNA in your kids, if you guys had kids together. Remember that you’re going to have to continue interacting with this person, so you better figure out ... And when your kids hear you talking shit about your ex, they take that personally, because they know that they’re part your ex. That kind of absorbs into them. So, that’s part of it.
But then, the second part of it is really to the extent you can, once you’ve taken all that into consideration, handle it like it is a business negotiation. Like a transaction. Because that’s what this part of it is.
You got years and years of therapy and healing and figuring out ways to better communicate and co-parent and all that. This part of it, particularly when you’re paying someone or something else an hourly or a fee or something, boil this down and get this part of it done. Don’t be sloppy or lazy. Get the information you need. But then move on.
And probably, even before that one is educate yourself. I’ve got plenty of people who come to me and say, “I don’t even know what our finances are. He or she was the breadwinner. I don’t know what we make. I don’t know what we spend. I don’t know what we have.” Get that information. Because that’s really important for you as a human on this earth, and if you’re raising kids, to know.
So, educate. Be kind. Treat it as a business transaction. And then perhaps, most important, this isn’t the end. This is the beginning. Start your next chapter. Live a good life. Put something positive back into the world. Again, particularly if you have kids. And get out there and do it.
So, stay married. Get married again. Get a divorce.
Get married again. Get in another relationship. Whatever you need to do to be happy. I don’t get the marriage thing to begin with, but that’s a whole ‘nother podcast. But, you know, fall in love. Love is good.
Yeah, love is good. All right Laura, this has been super helpful. So, when you start to expand and do this, people can get it from your app. Where can they get that?
Well, even before. If we’re not in your state yet, still come visit us. Because we have a record of you. You can still visit our content. A lot of the stuff’s the same, wherever you live. So it’s itsovereasy.com. We’re also on Instagram at @itsovereasy.
What pictures do you put up?
I don’t know, inspirational stuff. And when I speak at things.
”Here’s Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt when they were happy.”
Never. Never, never, never.
You handled that divorce, right?
Oh, that was in the tabloids, Laura.
I think you were in the tabloids.
I tried to stay ... For 25 years, I’ve built my whole career on being on the DL, now we launch It’s Over Easy, we’ve got the Laura Wasser official, which is the official website. We’ve got the Divorce Sucks podcast on Apple, also. And so, we have all of this where I’m now on display for everybody. But I think it’s for the greater good, which is get real, get educated, figure out how you need to start your next chapter.
What is on your Instagram account? Seriously.
Check it out! I don’t know. We’ve got anything that we’re trying to promote that has to do with a better self. So we’ve got our people from The Index, we’ve got ... Right now there’s a great thing up there about the content. And then on my official Laura Wasser, I have a picture of me and Kim Kardashian.
I think you should have pictures of celebrities when they were happy. “Before I divorced them.”
Why would I ... No. I will tell you this, though. I went to the Kardashian West ...
Leak something to Harvey over at TMZ.
Y’all do that, don’t you?
No! We don’t do that. But I am having him on my podcast. I have some things I want to ask Harvey Levin from TMZ.
But for years, never ... We had this Laura Wasser official website. There’s never been anything on it. Nothing ever was posted. I’m not a big Instagram person. And a couple of days after Christmas, I see my phone blowing up. Evidently there was a picture taken in one of the photo booths of me and Kim Kardashian and my friend Shelly…
Another divorce you handled.
Do you know Shelly?
I know Swervy.
So yes. So, the three of us are there in this very, very filtered, airbrushed, beautiful picture, and Kim must have tagged me. And literally within 24 hours I had 850 followers on this website. Now I feel compelled to put something on the website.
So, go visit the Laura Wasser official. We’ll put something up. Maybe we’ll put one of the pictures from the podcast that John’s taking.
Yeah, interesting. You know, Kim Kardashian taught me to do selfies.
Yeah, I put her onstage at one of our events, because she has one of the biggest social media followings. When I called to talk to her about it, she’s like, “Why do you want me? Everyone thinks I’m dumb.” I’m like “No, not digitally. Maybe you are, but digitally speaking ...”
No, she’s actually not dumb. They’re very bright and very ... Also lovely people.
We’re going to do a big interview again soon. We’re going to do ... It really is. It’s really interesting.
Well, I’m glad that she got you attention. Because when she tweets at you, it’s really ... It’s like her, or The Rock, or George Conway.
Anyway, speaking of that, you might be working on that divorce soon enough. Anyway. Sorry, George and Kellyanne, but you all should stop fighting on Twitter. It’s really getting kind of disturbing to all of us.
Anyway, it was great talking to you. Thanks for coming on the show.
Thanks for having me.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.