VANCOUVER — Nov 29, 2011 — Smartsettle Family Resolution Center produces positive pilot project results

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE (2012 May): Click here for the new Smartsettle Family website.

iCan Systems Inc., located in Vancouver, BC, re-launched their Family Resolution Center in 2011.  The Center ran as an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Pilot Project from 2003 to 2006.  Early on, word of mouth became a productive source of new clients, more so than local print advertising.  In 2011, Google AdWords has proven to be cost-effective.  The times they are a-changing.

Resource Planning

The Center helps couples that need to separate create agreements for that purpose using the Smartsettle eNegotiation system. This ODR system facilitates negotiations that may occur face-to-face, online, or in a combination of the two. Couples work with a Smartsettle-trained facilitator – or two co-facilitators – to produce a Framework for Agreement (FFA), which then becomes the basis for an “eNegotiation” between the parties using the Smartsettle software, and a unique process called Visual Blind Bidding.  After facilitating an agreement, Smartsettle is able to offer the parties an additional suggested “improvement” – an optimized agreement that appears better than the original for both parties.

Smartsettle deals with a mixture of both numerical and optioned issues, including choices among alternative scenarios as described in the FFA.  Typical separation agreements involve decisions on:

  • Guardianship of minor children
  • Decisions regarding children’s activities
  • Spousal and child support (within applicable legal requirements)
  • Division of both debts and assets
  • Other issues of special concern to one or both parties

The Smartsettle software facilitates the negotiation with special features such as the following:

  • The facilitator may incorporate “constraints” in the FFA, preventing the parties from suggesting or agreeing to packages that lie outside legal or agreed-upon limits.
  • Each party’s private view of the negotiation allows them to rank, score, and compare proposals and possible agreements within the space defined by the FFA.  This view may even include detailed real-time information about how suggested packages interact with the party’s personal context such as their tax situation, or cost of financing.

In the three dozen pilot family cases in which parties signed a Mediation and Facilitation Agreement, overwhelming success was evidenced by:

  • Most of those cases producing an FFA
  • Most of the separating couples in turn reaching a negotiated settlement using Smartsettle
  • Some of those cases able to benefit from Smartsettle’s suggested Improvement
  • A few of the couples ending up reconciling

All of these points show that collaboration is possible, even in very difficult situations, and underscore iCan’s belief that “separating the people from the problem” using the Smartsettle process is beneficial to the relationship and the trust between the parties. iCan has received positive feedback from a recent family law focus group and is now inviting family lawyers more broadly to consider incorporating this new technology into their own practice.

These developments are very timely in light of the Family Law Act that is about to be enacted in the BC legislature. This legislation will direct separating couples to alternatives such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration and will divert cases away from the backlogged courts. Smartsettle is well situated to be among these alternatives by providing an eNegotiation process that will reduce conflict, increase feelings of safety, promote negotiation of the issues, and result in agreements that are timely, fair and efficient.

More information is available at: http:// www.smartsettle.com/family – general information on the Smartsettle process at http://www.smartsettle.com/home/about-us/process/ – or contact Paul Jenkinson, Project Communications Coordinator at 1-800-595-9840 x 115.