Family Law

The Internet and Divorce


by Henry S. Gornbein

The latter part of the 20th Century saw a technological revolution. When I first started practicing law in 1968, many attorneys were still using manual typewriters. Since then, we have seen electric typewriters become obsolete, replaced by computers that originally filled a medium-sized office. In the late 60s, the copy machine was a new phenomenon. Many attorneys were still using carbons to make copies, and many were still using shorthand and just adapting to dictating equipment. Since then, we have seen the development of the fax machine and e-mail, and manual adding machines have become historical relics.

As we leave the 20th Century and enter the 21st Century, we have computers that are taught to take dictation and recognize our voices. Voice mail is now the rule rather than the exception—as are tiny cellular phones that are everywhere, and are often more of a nuisance than a help. Scheduling can now be done through portable computers the size of a notepad, rather than through notes and calendars, and laptops and/or notebook computers are frequently found with attorneys wherever they go. The latest wave is the Internet, and I would like to focus on how the Internet can be valuable to a divorce practitioner.

I have been involved in the Internet since 1995, through a website I created entitled Divorce-Online. Besides the website, which has been an extremely valuable resource and source of business, I have found that the Internet can also be extremely helpful on a day-to-day basis for a divorce practitioner.

Approximately two years ago, I was involved in a highly contested divorce where there were allegations of lottery winnings in Florida by the family of my client’s spouse.

I was able to access the Florida lottery winners list on the Internet. It showed that there had, indeed, been a substantial lottery won by family members, and this directly impacted the negotiations and settlement of the divorce.

On the Internet, there are invaluable search engines. These are used to help one find particular sites on any given topic. One widely known example of a search engine is Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), which has made a huge splash with its stock and is still regarded as one of the best resources available. Other search engines include Altavista (www.altavista.com) and Infoseek (www.infoseek.com), which provide fast and accurate results. Another example is Hotbot (www.hotbot.com), along with Excite (www.excite.com).

Let’s say that an attorney is trying to find stock quotes. A brokerage house can be accessed for quotes, such as Salomon Smith Barney (salomonsmithbarney.com). Other sources for stock quotes are www.naq.com and Quote Central (www.quotecentral.com).

Often in a divorce, the issue of the value of an automobile arises. The National Automobile Dealers Association placed a free version of its nationally-used car price guide on the Internet. It may be found at www.nadaguides.com and is updated monthly. The only drawback is that the online edition includes only retail price estimates based on national sales rather than regional sales data. Used car prices can vary widely from city to city, depending on supply and demand. The online guide does not include wholesale prices, which are useful when negotiating a trade-in with the dealer. The information that is available, however, still makes the Internet priceless when dealing with the issue of automobiles in a settlement. There are 20-30 other sources of used car prices on the Internet, including the Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com), Aerotrader Online, and Autotrader Online.

If a client is seeking an automobile loan, it can be located at www.carcalculator.com An additional source for automobile values is Edmonds (www.edmonds.com). Another listing is www.internetboats.com for information concerning boat values, and www.trader.online is yet another place that has prices and listings for boats, recreational vehicles, cars, cycles, and classic vehicles.

Art values may be found at www.artbrokerage.com and collectible information can be located at www.csmonline.com

Insurance information can also be uncovered through the Internet. Many insurance sites on the Internet provide the ability to make insurance comparisons and help clients in that area. These include Budget Life (www.budgetlife.com) and E-insure (www.e-insure.com), which has quotes and information on a wide variety of insurance products including Auto, Life, Home, and Business specialty. There are many other sites such as www.insweb.com, www.insuremarket.com and www.quickquote.com

These are just some of the growing number of resources that can be helpful in coming up with values and trying to narrow issues in divorces. On-the-spot information can be extremely helpful in preparation for trial and/or mediation, as well as during negotiations.

In summary, the Internet is becoming an extremely valuable and economical tool for the practice of Family Law. This is not only true as a source of business, but also as a means of getting quick and accurate values of property. That the Internet can provide a vast wealth of information for legal research goes without saying. It is the dawning of a new age, and the use of the Internet is a more and more valuable tool with each passing day.



Henry S. Gornbein
Henry S. Gornbein, who specializes in Family Law, has offices in Bloomfield Hills. He is a member of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan and served as chairperson of the Family Law Counsel from 1984 through 1985. He has been a fellow to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers since 1979, and was president of the Michigan Chapter of the Academy from 1985 through 1986. He is a member of the Oakland County Bar Association where he serves on the Family Law and Continuing Legal Education Committees. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of Jewish Family Service and Catholic Social Services of Oakland County; and a past president and former member of the Board of Directors of The Sanctuary. He is the creator and host of the TV program ‘‘Practical Law’’ and president of the American Divorce Information Network.


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