It has just been announced that we will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices under partnership with the NHS. Will we ever get to the stage where Alexa, or other forms of AI, will be giving family law advice?
AI is likely to take over in the straightforward cases financial provision cases within the next few years. It should tell you not only what the financial settlement should be, but will also prepare the necessary documents to record the terms of any agreement reached. It will however take AI a lot longer before it is intelligent enough and flexible enough to deal with divorces where, for example, pre-marital or inherited funds have been introduced into the matrimonial pot, where there is a special need to provide a home for one parent and the children, or where one of the spouses has a claim for maintenance. Ultimately, however, either AI will become so sophisticated that it can deal with most of the family law cases or the law will change to introduce a much more formulaic approach to financial provision in Scottish divorces. There will always however be difficult cases where the parties' finances are so inexorably entwined, or where there are cross-border issues, so as to ensure that financial provision family lawyers do not become extinct.
It will be much harder to have Alexa tell you how to deal with disputes regarding children. No childcare case is the same and the best arrangements for the care of a child are something that can never be reduced to an algorithm, no matter how long and complicated it is.
It will also be interesting to see how the Court system evolves with AI. There is a budgetary pressure on all government departments and although uncontested divorce work doesn't take up a lot of court resources a truly online divorce service would undoubtedly help cut administrative costs. The problem however is that divorce affects someone's status and it does have significant financial consequences and because of that there is likely to be resistance from lawyers and judges to have a couple's divorce processed and granted without human intervention, but given the fact that Simplified Divorces are essentially a form-filling exercise, the day of divorce-by-computer may well ultimately come.
Until the day comes when someone has invested sufficient time and money into developing the correct AI, it remains important to seek specialist advice from a family lawyer in respect of any issues that arise when a marriage breaks down.