As all of you may know, divorce is expensive. In Colorado, the average cost of divorce without children is $14,500 (9th highest in the nation) and the average cost of divorce with children is $21,700 (10th highest in the nation). The goal for my summer project with A2J Tech is to make divorce in Colorado more affordable for everyone. But to properly do that, I need to understand my target demographic; the people who are more likely to divorce but do not have the financial capabilities to do so.

Demographic Characteristic of the Target Audience: Class

The socioeconomic divisions based on educational attainment.

Unfortunately, the expense of divorce boils down to a class issue due to the financial barrier many people need to overcome when considering divorcing their partner. The most well-known indicator of financial success depends on one’s educational attainment; the highest level of education completed. Those who completed a bachelor’s degree or higher end up in the lower middle class or higher, while those who had some college credits or only high school experience end up in the working class and lower class. Interestingly, one’s educational attainment also determines the success of one’s first marriage as well.

In fact, people with a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree and people who were fortunate enough to be born in affluent families tend to enjoy relatively strong and stable marriages, while the working class and the lower class are less likely to get and stay married. In a study on marriages and divorces following people born during 1957-1964 until 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that “[t]he chance of a marriage ending in divorce was lower for people with more education, with over half of marriages of those who did not complete high school having ended in divorce compared with approximately 30 percent of marriages of college graduates.” Surprisingly, the people who can afford a divorce attorney statistically do not need one.

Demographic Characteristic of the Target Audience: Race

Although the financial burden of divorce is shared among all racial, ethnic, and religious groups within the working and lower class, it is important to discuss how minorities are disproportionately affected by this burden. In the same study, researchers found that Black Americans married later and at lower rates compared to White and Asian Americans, but those that do end up marrying, about 47.9% of the first marriages result in divorce. For Latino Americans, 45.5% of first marriages result in divorce.

When taking a quick glance at the statistics, there is slight increase for minorities who do end up divorcing from their first marriages. However, this study emphasizes how one’s education level leads to a more stable first marriage, with 29.8% of first marriages of people with a bachelor’s degree resulting in divorce. The group who attained a bachelor’s degree was made up of a majority of White Americans and some Asian Americans.

Today, the composition of Americans who were able to get a bachelor’s degree or higher remains the same. In a 2015 Census study on Educational Attainment in the United States, people who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher is composed of 53.9% Asian, 32.8% White, 22.5% Black, and 15.5% Latino. These statistics show how systematic racism and systematic poverty affect minorities in America; I think it is important to note these as two of the biggest causes for such low percentages of higher educational attainment among Black and Latino Americans.

As you can see from these statistics, lower income minorities tend to be more likely to divorce and are more likely not to afford the legal services to divorce. So, the financial burden of divorce not only affects people of lower socioeconomic status, but disproportionately affects poor Black and Latino Americans.

How Would Our Project Improve the Lives of the Target Audience?

The goal of the Colorado Divorce Project, now in partnership with Hello Divorce, is to alleviate the financial burden of divorce for everyone. We are automating the divorce forms in Colorado, to make it easier for someone to fill out all the legal forms required to file for divorce without the attorney price tag. For more information about the Colorado Divorce Project, please check out my previous blog post. Remarkably, this project will benefit people who belong to lower socioeconomic classes and minority communities the most since they are disproportionately impacted by the legal fees of divorce. It will not only make divorce more accessible to lower classes but make the financial burden easier to overcome for everyone facing such a life changing issue.

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first blog post! I will be assigned several blog challenges through the Access to Justice Tech Fellows Program and this blog post is a general overview of my host organization and the project I am working on this summer!

A2J Tech is a social enterprise that creates technology solutions to improve access to justice. From its main office in Denver, Colorado, its team collaborates with law schools, state programs, private firms, and Legal Aid organizations from Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, California, and of course, Colorado. One of its main goals is to create a variety of self-help services to empower self-represented litigants with the confidence to represent themselves.

With the rise in divorce rates in China due to quarantine, we can expect a similar trend to occur in the United States. In fact, a divorce lawyer in Shanghai reported that his caseload “increased by 25% since the city’s lockdown eased in mid-March.” With the legal expenses for divorce ranging from $1,000 to up to $200,000, the A2J team wants be prepared for low income people, who cannot afford such high legal fees, to be able to file for a divorce. Although these people may seek legal organizations to help file a petition, there are people who do not meet the income threshold to be a client or are turned away due to a lack of resources for the organization to take in more clients. Many people may turn to filling out the petition by themselves and may find it daunting due to the number of forms to fill out and may be confused about where to start. That is where my document automation project comes in!

The project I am working on is the Colorado Divorce Project. The same way TurboTax has simplified filing your own taxes, we seek to create a simplified questionnaire to help people who want to file for a divorce without the attorney price tag. To do this, I am creating a questionnaire to take in the client’s information and the interview will input that information onto the relevant divorce forms through a “no code” coding platform called Documate. I just finished the first few forms needed to file a petition for a divorce! They are currently in the testing phase. However, I am not done yet! With how extensive the divorce process is, there are many more forms to automate, and hopefully, I am able to finish this project before my fellowship is over! 😊