So there really IS an app for everything these days. Including separation. The Government have launched Sorting Out Separation, an online service designed for couples to help sort out their break up woes via tailored, web based help.
It claims to offer 'personalised advice' and direct parents to the assistance they need to sort out the legal aspects of their breakdown, housing issues, and the emotional side – including how to avoid separation in the first place (probably a bit late for those who are already logging on to it...).
Various family groups such as Relate, Gransnet and National Family Mediation are said to be using the tool on their sites already, and Steve Web from the Department of Work and Pensions says it is 'vital' that the Government helps to give parents 'access to better advice'.
I'm not sure I buy this. Looking at a promo video for the app, I felt my hackles rising. It opened with footage of warring parents, all emotive stuff: dads sleeping on sofa or relegated to granny's house, mums looking angry and waving their arms about during highly-charged mediation meetings.
Then, presumably after a session pressing some buttons on their electronic device, order is restored: dad returns home (to a 'I know it's not forever' voiceover from a little girl), a mum opens the door smiling as she hands her child over for a trip out with her ex, and an estranged couple smile fondly at each other as they discuss stuff round a kitchen table.
The word 'friends' is used. Excuse me while I vomit over my iPhone.
Honestly, will this REALLY be of any use to anyone? At the risk of sounding like a belligerent teenager, I already 'know my rights'. The day I decided I wanted to leave my child's father I Googled them, cross referenced them, looked up family law stuff and went and had an hour's consultation with a family law expert (a free initial consultation as offered by many practitioners).
I don't think 'not knowing where to turn' is the real issue at all during separation – sure it might be for some people, but, as the excruciating film for the app shows, it is all about breakdown in communication. It is entirely about dad sleeping on the sofa (although in my case it was me who spent a year and a half without a bed) and it is about mum angrily waving her arms about. Because THAT is what a relationship break up brings with it, a breakdown in communication. Anger. Resentment. And, quite likely a heartbroken partner who does not want to leave the family home or accept what is happening to their family. And, conversely, a furious partner who can see no way out of the situation they are in. And from that heady mix comes conflict and rows.
THOSE are the realities, and frankly, an app pointing us in the right direction to resolution (our 'rights', access to mediation...) is not going to take any of that away.
And trying to reassure us in the manner of a kindly aunt with phrases like 'it's normal during a break-up to feel angry, frustrated or sad when you think of your ex-partner. Learning to deal with your ex without conflict means you can build a better future for yourself, and your children' is more likely to make us want to kill whoever wrote the script than treat our ex with a modicum of respect.
So sorry, DWP. You rightly acknowledge that 300,000 families undergo separation every year in Britain. But I very much doubt any of them will want to be patronised by a computer programme offering them advice.
What do you think? DO we need apps like this? Is the only way to 'reach' people these days?