A new legal dispute resolution service could save tens of thousands of dollars in court costs and take the emotional strain out of relationship property disputes and other spats.
Complete Online Dispute Resolution (CODR) is the brainchild of former Solicitor-General Michael Heron, who said he'd seen too many people spend vast amounts of time and money on disputes that could easily have been resolved in other ways.
"After 25 years or so as a litigator I've seen the pain that people go through over things like relationship property or other general civil scraps," the Queen's Counsel told the Herald.
"For issues that don't really need the court and don't involve great principle or criminal law ... it just seemed to me that there's got to be a faster way and a more efficient way."
CODR matches aggrieved parties with a QC and arbitrator, with hearings taking place via video or audio link rather than in the Family Court or another judicial body.
All had to agreed to comply with the CODR arbitrator's decision, which was enforceable by the courts.
The system had already gained interest from many lawyers, banks, insurers, councils and district health boards, Heron said.
In August, CODR had its first case go all the way through the arbitration process to resolution; a relationship property dispute that resulted in a couple spending $10,000 instead of the $100,000 it could have cost in the Family Court.
It was resolved in just two hours through an online hearing as opposed to the two years it could potentially have taken in court.
Heron hoped CODR could eventually become available globally because arbitration processes were fairly similar in many other countries.
"The agreement of the parties means that the result is binding and can be enforced around the world."
Heron has also obtained the services of some world-renowned lawyers including Sir David Williams Miriam Dean, Robert Fisher, and former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.
The cost of the service varied depending on the complexity and length case, but the bulk of the money went to the experts. Heron would not disclose how much CODR received, for commercial reasons.
"But it's not going to be a money making venture, that's for sure. At least not in my lifetime," He said.
CODR is also working on a project with IBM and the University of Auckland to incorporate artificial intelligence into the service to speed it up even further.
This would utilise the new technology of IBM Watson, which is capable of analysing millions of documents in seconds.
Heron said this could potentially provide experts and customers with likely results almost instantly.