Tom Griffiths, psychologist, cognitive scientist and Princeton professor, concludes his TED talk, 3 ways to make better decisions — by thinking like a computer, with the following lesson:

“You can’t control outcomes, just processes; and as long as you’ve used the best process, you’ve done the best that you can.”

Dr. Griffiths has researched the connections between natural and artificial intelligence to discover how people solve the challenging problems they encounter in everyday life. His 2016 book authored with Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By, illustrates how the algorithms used by computers can inform human decision-making (and vice versa). The book was named one of the “Best Science Books of 2016” and appeared on Forbes’s “Must-read brain books of 2016” list as well as the MIT Technology Review’s “Best books of 2016” list.

In New York, most couples going through a divorce, although aware of litigation and mediation, do not know that they have a choice of a third structured process to unravel the marital relationship and transition the family through the divorce. Most divorcing couples don’t know that they have a chance to apply Griffiths’ lesson and select a process that can reduce the time, cost, anguish and damage that so often accompanies divorce litigation, yet address the shortcomings of mediation.

Continue Reading Divorcing Couples Can Learn a Lesson From Computer Algorithms

Blank Check iStock_000013161843XSmall.jpgWith the addition on August 13, 2010 of D.R.L. §170(7), making New York the 50th state to grant no-fault divorces, Governor Patterson also signed an amendment to D.R.L. §237. That amendment creates a rebuttable presumption that while a divorce action is pending, the “less monied” spouse shall be awarded counsel and expert fees and expenses on a timely basis.

Although the award(s) remain a matter of discretion, as justice requires, the court is charged with “assuring” that the less-monied spouse is adequately represented from the commencement of the action.

Designed to maintain a level playing field throughout divorce litigation, the amendment is shortsighted, if not foolhardy. Eliminating the market-place checks on litigation expenses can only lead to abuses.

When a client must oversee and approve fees and expenses, every decision becomes a business decision. Is contemplated action reasonable in light of all factors? However, the amendment to D.R.L. §237 is an open invitation to exhaust every discovery device and have experts value every asset. Among the questions which remain:

  • To what extent courts will prospectively challenge a divorce lawyer’s statement of what must be done to “adequately” represent the client?
  • Will court-appointed neutral experts be mandated to avoid awardable fees?
  • To what extent will courts challenge hourly rates?
  • To what extent will awards be recoupable or reallocated?
  • To what extent may marital property be used to satisfy these awards?

The resources of Supreme Court Justices are already taxed beyond propriety. There is no monitoring system presently available to prevent anticipated abuses. As a result, perhaps after a period of careful judicial scrutiny, the courts may lapse into doing what is easy: finding that the “presumption” has not been rebutted and signing a blank check.

Before that occurs, the matrimonial bar, the courts, and the legislature must take action to ensure that awards of litigation expenses do not wipe out the parties’ assets and are not used as a weapon to coerce unjust settlements.