Wevorce is a high-tech & high-touch approach to divorce that keeps families out of court. We’ve built a national divorce company that uses online and offline services to streamline the divorce process so it is more affordable and faster. Our marketplace connects divorcing families with Wevorce-certified mediators who are experts in family law, co-parenting, and the financial aspects of divorce.
Wevorce founder Michelle Crosby knows the pain of divorce all too well. At the age of nine, her parents were going through a bitter court battle. When she took the witness stand, the judge asked her: “Which parent will you choose?”
"When you are nine, you can't answer at questions," Michelle says.
She felt confused and overwhelmed. They were asking her to pick which one was her favorite parent, and she didn’t know how to answer.
At the time, divorce settlements meant mom got the kids and dad had to live with seeing them every other weekend. That wasn’t enough for Michelle’s father, so he challenged it. Unfortunately, because of the way the divorce process generally works, this meant that Michelle was dragged to court every other year.
The stress from experiencing such a bitter divorce stayed with her and wound up influencing her career choice. Michelle attended Gonzaga University of Law in order to pursue family law so she could help make sure other children didn’t have to go through a similar traumatic experience.
The divorce process is broken
Through her studies and practice, she started to understand why so many divorces wind up like her parent's one did. When partners decide to divorce, two different lawyers are hired who work towards ensuring that the partner they represent walks away with as many of the family’s possessions as possible, including the kids.
“Law schools train lawyers to be advocates. Lawyers sit with their clients and are taught to think about the process from that one client’s perspective,” Michelle said. “They fail to recognize there’s a whole family involved or how divorce sets the stage for co-parenting. That’s a rough way to begin a change especially when this is your family.”
Michelle couldn’t bring herself to practice family law in that way, so she joined a corporate securities firm instead. After years at that firm and on the eve of a coveted partner promotion, Michelle realized that she had drifted even further away from the reason she went to law school in the first place.
So she quit and decided to start her own family law practice that would change the divorce process in the way that she had always understood was needed.
"I wanted to go work with families," Michelle said, “and help them through tough times to make decisions for their families. The transition during a divorce maybe from the husband and wife role, but there's no reason couples can't maintain the mom and dad role for life,” she added.
Divorce impacts millions of families
To say that many families could benefit from an improved divorce process would be an understatement. According to the CDC, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. The chance of staying together in a second or third marriage is even less likely, and children are directly impacted by the change. The Effects of Divorce On America found that fifty percent of children born to married parents will experience divorce before they are 18-years-old. And various studies have shown that children who experience the divorce of their parents require psychological help.
Second to the death of a spouse or child, divorce is the most traumatizing life event that one can experience, so grieving through the process is expected. Michelle experienced this grief first-hand. After being married for 13 years, she went through an amicable divorce with her husband using her own methodology. Seemingly trapped in the divorce system herself, her only escape has been through creating a new way to get divorced -- one that is augmented by software and prioritizes empathy for the children involved.
"I've walked the shoes of every role -- the child of a divorce, a wife who was divorced, and a lawyer helping other people get divorced," Michelle said.
How Wevorce works
Wevorce believes that a healthy divorce is about much more than completing the necessary paperwork. That's why the company focuses as much on the emotional and financial elements of divorce, as they do on the legal aspects.
Wevorce begins by knowing the divorce space better than any team anywhere. For example, there are numerous stumbling blocks that all families encounter, so Wevorce has built a systems that recognizes those patterns and normalizes (or avoids) them.
The Wevorce process starts from a different place than a traditional divorce. Instead of two lawyers competing against one another, Wevorce puts one attorney/mediator at the center whose job it is to help the family find the best way to co-parent, divide their marital assets, and move forward. There are five steps to our online/off-line process : Amicable divorce planning, sustainable co-parenting planning, partnering agreement, financial mapping, financial agreements, and divorce settlement.
Each step involves an online homework and in-person meeting with the attorney mediator and an accompanying software component.
"The idea of combining technology in this conversation is really new. Using technology to make the professional’s job easier is the key. It allows them to save costs and do away with paper files," Michelle said.
Family attorneys wind up doing a lot of paperwork, a reality that is cumbersome for them, and expensive for their clients. Wevorce has developed software that helps attorneys complete that paperwork in 60 percent of the time that it normally takes. Clients can answer questions using a tablet while meeting with the attorney and complete other components of the process on their computers at home.
In addition to walking the couple through the process, the software gives couples helpful information about the complexity of what they are going through. For instance, there’s a video that explains how the brain’s amygdala region, where emotions are stored, is affected during a divorce. When someone is going through the emotions of divorce it is impossible to make a logical decision. The video shows parents that when they experience an emotional trigger, they can have a rush of adrenaline that lasts for hours. To relieve this, the video suggests that they identify a way to calm down and get back to making logical decisions.
Companies such as LegalZoom have provided online paperwork that is standard in divorce settlements. However, people have a hard time navigating hundreds of pages of legal documents, “Even if you choose do-it-yourself methods, they are dealing with 170 pages of double sided documents that use jargin like “pro rata” and “jurisdiction” that the average family has a hard time understanding.” Michelle said. "We populate those legal documents and we are doing it in a much more human fashion."
Wevorce has already helped families in 10 U.S. states and plans to expand to all 50 states by the end of the year.
In just two years, the system has saved clients $2.5 million in legal fees. In January 2013, Michelle moved to Mountain View, California to join a prestigious incubator program called Y Combinator to further develop the software powering Wevorce with her co-founder Jeff Reynolds.
Jeff Reynolds joins the team
Michelle was speaking at an Ignite conference, where Jeff happened to be one of the organizers. Jeff joined as co-founder after a mutual friend suggested they meet for coffee. Jeff’s parents had also gone through a divorce when he was a child, so felt a personal drive to make the divorce process better.
“If my parents had had this, I wouldn’t have spent 20 years worrying about them bumping into each other. Or stressed out about thinking about the transition between my mom and dad’s house,” Jeff said. “My parents didn’t know how that would impact their kids and how it would impact future relationships. They were focused on getting out of each other’s sight. But it turns out, that’s not really a healthy approach to build a future on.”
Jeff brings a history of entrepreneurial experience to the team. He has founded or grown with companies, and is building on that experience to bring Wevorce to a number of new locations.
Why attorneys like Wevorce
There is a list of 400 attorneys across the country waiting to join Wevorce.
Like most startups, Wevorce is testing different pricing models, but currently averages around $6,900 a client. The average family spends $27,000 on divorce, so Wevorce costs less than a third of what they would otherwise expect to pay, while giving them much more. Families call Wevorce to book an appointment. The couple schedules a meeting with an attorney mediator for a consultation where the couple gets the same information together rather than each partner coming to the table with different ideas from their respective attorneys. Delivering the information this way, Michelle said, builds trust.
The trust built through their process helps Wevorce get clients to a resolution relatively quickly, but they often want to expedite the process.
“I always try to say, how long did you spend planning your Wedding? When you are uncoupling, it takes time for everyone to adjust, including the children," Michelle said.
The fastest couples go through the Wevorce process in 6 weeks, but on average, it takes about 90 days. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates the average length of divorce proceedings to take 1 year.
What is Wevorce?
Wevorce is a national divorce company that keeps families out of court using our high-tech & high-touch approach to amicable divorce. Wevorce’s software supported process connects families with Wevorce certified mediators across the country. We help mitigate the mental anguish and financial burden of divorce all at a fraction of the costs of a traditional divorce.
Wevorce is much more than paperwork. The company also helps clients through the emotional and financial issues involved.
How does the process work?
Our step-by-step approach guides families through every decision they will need to make to reach a divorce settlement. We have developed 18 divorce archetypes that allow us to predict and customize, with 97% accuracy, the steps each family will need to take and how much it will costs right from the beginning.
As families work through their Wevorce they work online to complete exercises at home to prepare for their in-office meetings with Wevorce Mediators that have a background in family law, counseling or finance. Our software captures all the families information and the agreements they make along the way so it can populate their final divorce documents. Our software and proactive approach saves 60% of an attorney’s time since it automates the mountain of paperwork that is generally associated with divorce.
How is the process better than a traditional divorce?
Our philosophy is that divorce is not a legal problem, it just has legal implications.
When you treat divorce like a legal problem there is fighting, expensive legal bills and years of your life wasted moving through the court system. When you Wevorce you fight less, co-parent more, save time and money.
A typical divorce starts with a lawyer and a process server announcing to a spouse “you’ve been served” —you then have 20 days to respond. This system is archaic, barbaric & destroys families. Imagine if we started our marriages this way. It would be horrible.
Wevorce’s approach helps families untie the knot with as much respect and dignity as they did when they started their marriage, because, even though you are letting go of your roles of husband and wife, you will always be mom & dad.
Is this a services or product business?
It’s a hybrid. We've created a marketplace to connect divorcing families with our specially-trained mediators to facilitate our process in-person and online. This enables the personal touch families need during this process. But we couldn’t scale it without our cloud-based software and education tools, which allow the families to do much more of the work themselves.
How do the costs compare to a traditional divorce process?
On average we’re 1/3 the price of a two-attorney divorce and often less than the price of unstructured mediation. Compared to both, we provide much more value to the families in the form of education, tools and sustainable parenting plans. Instead of working with just one, legally-focused professional, families also get the help of parenting and financial experts.
What are your margins?
Gross margin ranges from 30% to 40% depending on the product and location. There have been other experiments in our space that tried and failed because they cost too much or didn’t allow practitioners to earn a good wage. Our technology-meets-humanity approach fixes that.
How much of the divorce process is online?
It depends on the unique needs of the family.
We are high-tech so we can be high-touch. This means we use technology to streamline the process so we can add more services and give families the extra support they need for a lower cost.
Some families choose to go through the entire process online, including meeting via videoconferencing. Others do about 50% of the process online and the rest in one of our local offices.
How will you keep the process high-touch when you expand?
It wouldn’t be possible without our back-end technology. It’s counterintuitive, but the technology actually enables us to infuse more touch into the experience. Our system frees the mediators to put all of their energy into understanding client issues, not shuffling papers. The systemized approach also eliminates the need for support staff which results in very high revenue-per-employee.
How big is the market?
The U.S. spends $30 billion per year on divorce legal fees alone. That’s just a fraction of the total cost of divorce when you include moving expenses, counseling services, etc. Eventually we'll help our clients solve the many challenges that surround this transition.
How is this defensible?
We have built software around our proprietary approach to amicable divorce and we have copyright and trademark protection. In addition, we're building one of the largest storehouses of divorce data anywhere. The insights we gather are then integrated into our process. It's a valuable head start.
How do you incentivize attorneys to put their clients through Wevorce?
Our mediators (“Divorce Architects”) like Wevorce because our platform makes their practice both more efficient, and profitable while allowing them to do the kind of work they really want to do. Attorneys make more money hourly with Wevorce than with their existing practice because we automate paperwork and admin tasks that take lots of their time. With these tasks out of the way, they can focus 100% of their time on the actual mediation which is most profitable for them. Mediators collect their money upfront, the website lays out all the steps, and our efficient online platform eliminates time consuming paperwork and client on-boarding. Also, if lawyers bring the client to us, we pay them more.
How do you attract new mediators?
So far we’ve paid nothing to acquire mediators - public speaking events and the press have done the work for us. Right now we have 450+ mediators in the pipeline hoping to work for Wevorce, while more apply every day. We're scheduled to speak at several Bar Association events in the coming months and Michelle was just named a 2014 "Legal Rebel" by the American Bar Association — a magazine that every attorney reads. Mediator acquisition has been easy for us, and we don’t expect a slow down anytime soon.
In fact, we have a waiting list of professionals in every city we’ve rolled out in. In many ways, we’ve created a new career track for the thousands of would-be attorneys who come out of law school with no desire to follow the traditional law firm career track.
How do you onboard new mediators?
Every mediator goes through a three-part screening process. After reaching out to us, we do an initial meet-and-greet over the phone to ensure our philosophies are aligned. Then we’ll do our due diligence; we examine their resume, call references, conduct a background check, look at the office where they’ll be meeting families, and administer a short questionnaire about why they'd like to work with Wevorce. Each mediator goes through a thorough training program and must pass a technology test to ensure they’re comfortable with our platform.
How do you manage such a large workforce of consultants?
Because our Divorce Architects are all highly educated, highly trained professionals, their self-management capabilities are exceptional. And when we give these talented people access to our custom management software, it helps them work even more effectively.
Has there been any mediator churn?
Who owns the client?
All of our clients are Wevorce clients. We then hire the Wevorce mediators as Independent Contractors to work with our families for the in-office portions of their Wevorce.
Do you have any competitors?
It’s a diffuse market, with different types of attorneys, mediators and even “divorce coaches” servicing it to varying degrees. In one sense, these are all competitors, but none of them are trying to achieve what we are: an online-meets-offline solution for amicable, affordable divorce.
What other services will you provide families in the future?
Families face many challenges beyond divorce documents — and we can be there to help. When a couple makes the decision to sell the house they’ll need a real estate agent to handle the sale. When couples separate, new insurance plans are necessary for both husband and wife. Divorce leaves family members without certain necessities. Eventually Wevorce will fill these gaps by sourcing professionals already familiar with the family dynamic and finances.
We’re already reaching out to both real estate agents and insurance brokers to join the Wevorce marketplace.
What keeps you up at night?
Several things. First is the challenge of expanding quickly while maintaining a high quality experience for the families we serve. We consider it an honor to work with our clients and we take our commitment to them seriously. Still, we drive to grow quickly. Every day that a child is torn apart by the existing divorce machine is one day too many. Contrary to popular belief, the most damaging part of this experience for kids is not the divorce itself, but how their parents handle the process. We lose a lot of sleeping worrying about that.
If you achieve your vision what will Wevorce look like?
Wevorce is not just a business, it’s a movement.
Our vision is to turn every divorce amicable and therefore improve lives-for thousands of kids and their parents. This means only people who require the protections of the court system will hire attorneys and go to battle. The rest will choose Wevorce.
With someone getting divorced every 13 seconds in this country, we intend to do well by doing good.
How do you acquire families?
We’re finding them and they’re finding us! Everyone recognizes that the existing divorce process is broken and couples are looking for better options. Wevorce is the solution.
We’re accomplishing this by building a strong professional referral network in the cities where we have physical locations. Content marketing (we're bloggers on both the Huffington Post and our own blog, weLife) SEO, public relations, and targeted SEM are big contributors.
Do you conduct customer surveys?
We conduct a survey at three points throughout the process: 30, 60, and 90 days after documents are finalized. 30 days after the Wevorce process our average score is 8.5/10. That number only rises as the sour taste of separation wears off and they reflect on how helpful we were. Just recently we’ve started gathering testimonials and more in-depth feedback to better our platform.
How many families have you helped and how many have gone to court?
We’ve worked with over 400+ husbands, wives, and kids. We've kept all but 1 family out of court.
What are your growth numbers?
Right now, we have over 460 inbound inquiries from divorce professionals and over 930 inquiries from potential customers in our pipeline. We have worked with families in 10 states and are scaling to all 50 states.
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