By Chris Kramer
August 10, 2007 — Would you really want a game to decide the issues of your divorce? If you do, there is some new "divorce software" in development that can help you out.
The collaborative divorce computer program aims to help settle disputes by focusing on compromises between the parties. It uses artificial intelligence, game theory and gives the option of either having an actual human divorce mediator, or a built in electronic one.
Developers of the divorce software say that when both parties want the same thing, the game helps determine who wants it more and who is willing to compromise more on another issue in order to get what they want.
The program is based on game theory concepts developed by mathematician John Nash. The "divorce game" begins by polling each party separately and asks them to input each disputed item's importance to them. The husband and wife will each enter their own set of numbers, assigning a point value that reflects how they view the importance of each item in dispute.
The game gives each spouse 100 points to distribute. Once the parties have assigned point values to the items, the divorce software goes to work. It first determines the items which have the biggest gap between the point values that each party assigned to them. Those items are found to be the easiest to come to agreement on, so the parties start there and work their way into the more difficult items, those being the items that the husband and the wife both assigned a similar point value.
After the first and "easiest" dispute is settled, the party that "loses" that round is given extra points, I can only assume for being so accommodating and giving in on the first divorce issue. That person can then assign their extra points to the remaining issues, giving them a little bit more weight in the dispute. So, for instance, basically if the wife decides to let her husband keep a car she didn't even want in the first place, she will then be able to assign more points to something like the house, which she really does want to keep.
I think if I were planning to use this software to resolve divorce issues, I would first list all kinds of disputes for items I didn't really want but knew that my spouse did want, so that I could then "give in" and let the other party "win" those rounds; thereby giving me lots more points to beat the spouse out of the things that I really wanted. See how easy it would be to manipulate this divorce software? That in itself would be a good reason to be represented by a divorce attorney before striking up any deals regarding a divorce settlement.
The developers say that the divorce software tries to create a win-win situation. The initial divorce software that was developed did not take into account the needs of children in divorce, so a second program has been developed and named "Family Mediator". This divorce software requires the use of a mediator, which is good thinking, especially when children are involved.
The divorce and mediation software packages are not available commercially yet. The developers do say that they think the programs could be adopted by social service professionals and that they have already seen an interest in the divorce software by family law attorneys.