Angelina Jolie’s lawyer offers quickie divorces online
February 19, 2018 | 67° | Check Traffic

New York Times

Angelina Jolie’s lawyer offers quickie divorces online

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NEW YORK >> Since couples now meet online, plan weddings online, cheat online and find couples therapists online, it is only logical that they should be able to divorce online.

It’s Over Easy is a new website that takes couples through divorce for a $750 starting fee. It is either liberating in its convenience (remember in the Rosalind Russell film “The Women” when the disgruntled wives had to fly to a dude ranch in Reno, Nevada?) or another sign of the pending apocalypse.

More curiously, it was founded not by some fly-by-night 1-800-SPLIT-NOW type, but by Laura Wasser, the affluent Beverly Hills-adjacent lawyer who has represented famous clients like Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Wasser introduced the site privately to about a dozen of her friends and acquaintances in Los Angeles in the summer. Since late January, it has been available to the public in California and in New York, with plans to expand to Nevada, Oregon, Florida and Texas this year.

To promote these developments, Wasser recently appeared on “Good Morning America” and spoke at the SoHo branch of the women’s club the Wing in New York, telling a lovelorn separated woman during a Q&A that in trying to punish her husband by dragging her feet on divorce, she was actually punishing herself. An ad for It’s Over Easy has appeared on the Nasdaq building, featuring an enormous head-to-toe image of the glamorous, honey-haired Wasser, with the headline “Online Divorce Available Now.”

She also met this reporter in her Upper East Side hotel room, wearing a red Valentino empire waist minidress with Dior motorcycle boots. Wasser, 49, said her site was not designed for everyone.

If your spouse comes home every day and beats you, she said, “this isn’t for you.” Instead, she said, it’s for people who think they can agree on how to divide what they’ve amassed together and who want control over the process. “Nobody knows our kids, our life, our finances, better than we do,” she said.

Wasser, who has practiced family law for 23 years and is a divorced mother herself, said she was inspired to create It’s Over Easy after writing her book “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself ” (2013), which advocated less-expensive, less-contentious divorces.

After receiving a positive response from readers, she said, she thought: “Let’s hit the market. Couples today date online and bank online. They don’t mind putting in their assets and liabilities into a computer. They’re do-it-yourselfers. If they can buy an espresso maker online, they can get divorced online.”

She is not the first to think of this. LegalZoom has offered a divorce platform called Wevorce since 2012. But it lacks the star power of Wasser, who is frequently featured in tabloid magazines and in Vogue.

Despite this, Jake Stango, 39, the CEO of It’s Over Easy and a divorced father, said the site was meant to be amiable and inclusive. “In traditional divorces, there’s a fear that your partner has a better attorney than you do,” he said. “This is gender agnostic. It’s something for everyone to use. And we’ve taken out the sense of competition.”

It’s Over Easy offers four pricing tiers, starting with a free trial, during which users can answer questions needed to generate forms, but not download them — allowing the curious to fantasize online and complete net-worth statements after they have snits.

Once Mr. Divorce Dreamer can take it no longer, he sends an email invitation to his spouse to join the site: less jarring, perhaps, than sending a process server to her barre class.

“Working with your spouse makes divorce much easier,” the online form states. “For example, issues related to kids and division of community property require that your spouse mutually agree to the terms in order to file your final judgment.” You can also include personalized messages to your soon-to-be ex.

It’s Over Easy’s basic level ($750) offers downloadable forms, a parenting calendar and child- and spousal-support calculators. On the pro level ($1,500 plus state filing fees) the site serves the petition, files forms for one spouse and offers a 30-minute phone consultation for one person with a family-law consultant. Its premium service ($2,500 plus state filing fees) files for both spouses and offers 90 minutes of consulting and unlimited email support. The consultants do not provide legal advice, but they answer questions related to the platform.

If a user wants more information about “Kids,” “Have/Owe” or “Make/Spend,” she can click on a video featuring Wasser.

“Custody is based on your children’s best interests,” she says from a child’s bedroom.

In her New York hotel room, Wasser said the site amounted to virtual mediation. (Mediators, who typically charge far less than lawyers, have been making incursions into divorce resolution since at least the early 1980s.)

“In mediation it’s one unbiased person telling you the law,” Wasser said. “Our unbiased person is the artificial intelligence in the computer or somebody to talk to.”

Melanie Jacobson, 44, is a schoolteacher living in South Pasadena, California, who joined It’s Over Easy in the summer. Her husband of 15 years said he wanted a divorce in January 2017, moved out the next day and then did nothing to initiate the legal proceedings.

In February 2017 Jacobson visited a mediator.

“I nearly died when I found out how expensive it was,” she said. “It was a $5,000 initial fee. I thought, ‘Maybe I can’t afford to get divorced.’”

An acquaintance of Wasser, Jacobson reached out about her situation and got a free account last summer. As a beta tester, she interacted directly with Stango.

“A couple times when I stalled making progress, Jake would send me an email and it was the nudge that I needed,” she said. “He had this analogy: ‘The next step is as easy as doing an Amazon order.’ I thought, ‘I’ve got this.’ I wanted someone to hold my hand and say, ‘Do this.’”

She said her ex has not always been prompt about completing his forms.

Jacobson’s favorite part of the site is the progress tracker: a yellow series of icons that shows the percentage of progress made in each category, from Basic Info to “The Deal,” as if losing weight on a diet.

“I used to laugh at conscious uncoupling,” Jacobson said. “But now I understand the concept of trying to undo something meaningful in a respectful way. This allows us to do it in a financially feasible way.”

Jonathan, 50, a small-business owner in Los Angeles, who did not want to give his last name because he owns a business with his soon-to-be-ex, is a few months away from his divorce. (California has a mandatory six-month waiting period.)

He and his wife of 19 years have two children and two homes. She met another man, and after trying what he calls a “love triangle,” Jonathan decided they should split. Then it was a matter of how to do it.

“‘The War of the Roses’ divorce was not for me,” he said. He too visited a mediator, but his wife didn’t show up to the appointment, instead calling in by phone. A longtime friend of Wasser, he signed up.

He likens the site to online defensive-driving classes.

“You can’t rush through it,” he said. “You have to put a level of effort in.”

He also wanted a divorce that wouldn’t be drawn out.

“I’d like to date again,” he said. “There are women telling me they won’t date me until I’m divorced.”

It’s Over Easy offers a directory of movers, health-insurance brokers, child therapists and more to paying users.

“You need people to help you rewrite your will,” Wasser said, “in case you die in probate. You need self-tanners so you can get ready to date again, and co-parenting counselors to tell you how to handle parent-teacher conferences.”

So far two divorces (both in California) have been completed, with others awaiting processing. The spring may bring a new wave of customers eager to be divorced by the end of the calendar year: Any payer of spousal support who completes a divorce after Dec. 31, 2018, will no longer be able to claim the support as a deductible expense.

Lest one think the site’s primary market will be millennials with no children or significant assets, on its first day 30 percent of users were 35 to 44, according to analytics provided by the company, and 22 percent were 45 to 54. A quarter were 25 to 34.

Still, some are wondering if the generation that has embraced Netflix and Tinder really needs another disincentive to staying in it for the long haul.

“People ask if I’m a divorcemonger,” Wasser said. “I say, Nobody is going to hear about It’s Over Easy and get divorced because there’s a good online platform. Divorce is happening. I’m making it easier.”

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