First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… um… divorce. Did you know in Western cultures, more than 90% of people marry by the age of 50? Then, in the US, about half end in divorce.
Sad, but true, and expensive. The average US divorce costs between $15 000 to $20 000. So it was only a matter of time before someone got fed up of being milked.
Seeing the light
That someone was Karen Stewart. A true entrepreneur, she was busy, energetic, and had launched eight businesses in finance and investment. But a five-year-long, dragged out, knock-down divorce that cost more than $500 000 left her reeling.
“I thought, ‘There has to be a better way’. Then I started thinking, ‘What would that better way look like?’”
Soon after, Stewart founded Fairway Divorce Solutions in 2006, working as a financial mediator, brainstorming her ideas about divorce resolution. She came up with a process she calls ‘independently negotiated resolution’.
Unlike the scenario where divorcing couples are thrown into a room to battle things out, Stewart takes clients through the process independently.
Couples don’t work together until the very end, after a draft resolution is complete.
Capturing divorce revenue
In 2008, Stewart began franchising Fairway. By 2011 she had 32 franchises and 16 offices across Canada and the US. “Nobody’s ever said divorce is an industry, but it is, and it’s massive,” says Stewart.
“There’s never been a mechanism to capture the $20 billion divorces deal with yearly. We’ve never held divorce accountable to the ways we do other business.”
Stewart contends there are big advantages going through Fairway versus the courts.
Clients save money on attorneys’ fees as lawyers provide independent legal advice and are only brought in at the final stage to approve and file the divorce settlement; and the stress of court proceedings is avoided by having clients work on their own timeline as opposed to the court’s schedule.
And by charging an upfront fee, which is calculated depending on the complexity of the divorce, incentive to drag out proceedings is avoided. The process typically takes about 120 days.
Becoming a franchisee
Since this isn’t a typical franchise, becoming a Fairway franchisee is a little more involved. “Our franchisees are buying a career, it takes time and work to build, like opening a law firm.”
And while being embroiled in bitter divorces for a living sounds like it could be draining, Stewart says gratification comes from bringing conflicts to a peaceful resolution.
“A couple came to me after already spending $200 000 on lawyers, fighting about kids and a restraining order. But by the end of our process, things were amicable and they decided to jointly own a cottage. That’s how successful our process can be, and it’s something I can be proud of,” she ends.
Fairway Divorce Solutions
- Founder: Karen Stewart
- Established: 2006
- Franchised: 2008
- Footprint: 32 (2011)
- Cost: $10 000 to $35 000
- Contact: Fairwaydivorcesolutions.com