Jessica Hoffman, CEO of FamilyDocket, Smoothes Communication During Divorce
Divorce is emotional, confusing, time-consuming, expensive, and above all else — stressful. While no one can wave a magic wand and make divorce easy, we can (and should!) be cost sensitive and efficient — harnessing technology and modern techniques to save our clients money and time. This interview is part of Divorceify’s Innovator Interviews, a series sharing the stories behind today’s most cutting edge tools and approaches to divorce.
Jessica Hoffman is an innovator based in Texas who created a tool to track text messages during divorce (and preserve them for use in court!).
Jessica’s husband is a divorce lawyer and she saw both how important text message evidence had become in his casework and how frustrating it was for him to track text messages for use as evidence. Jessica shares the story of how FamilyDocket was born and how it saves users time, money, and frustration.
What does your company do?
FamilyDocket serves as a communication platform in divorce and custody cases not only between (ex)spouses/co-parents, but also between the client and their attorney. This allows for smooth communication all the way around and moves cases forward at a reduced cost. For example, we track text messages automatically between (ex)spouses/co-parents and store them securely with access for each attorney should they be needed during the case.
What is innovative about what you do?
We are the only tool that tracks text messages automatically, in real-time between (ex)spouses/co-parents and stores them. This allows divorcing parents to communicate with each other in their preferred format while also protecting those communications and making them available to the attorneys should they become important in the case.
How does your innovation help divorce clients or divorce professionals?
Our tool allows divorce clients to communicate with each other the way they already are – via text – while also protecting and storing that communication for use should they need it. This can help clients communicate better with each other. It also saves each client time by not requiring them to take screenshots of conversation after conversation and send it to their attorney, nor pay their attorneys to become document managers. Instead, FamilyDocket displays the text messages on a secure dashboard that divorce professionals can access and review as needed. This saves the divorce professional time and saves the client money.
Can you walk us through a typical day? (If there is such a thing!)
My day starts at 5:05 AM and starts the way most people start these days – checking my email! Then I meet a group to run or I go to a yoga class. Once I return it is a rush to get my two boys off to school and me ready for work. Work can be a combination of phone calls, video calls, conferences with clients, reviewing progress and client feedback with my software developers, speaking engagements or preparing for each of those. That can include research and writing for continuing legal education articles or speeches.
Why did you start your company?
To help divorce professionals and their clients save time and money when dealing with communication and evidence in a divorce or custody case.
What made you want to do things differently?
I saw my husband, a family law attorney, and his clients both struggling with the same issues – primarily large volume of text message correspondence and no tool that could address it.
How did you bring your idea to life?
We did a lot of market research as well as technology research to determine if what we wanted to do was possible. Once we saw that it was, we poured a lot of time and money into making it come to life. We were also blessed to have colleagues and friends in the legal industry who gave us feedback throughout the process.
How long did it take you to bring your idea to life?
It was almost 2 years from when we ﬁrst had the concept to when we launched FamilyDocket in June 2018.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Building a new technology platform is time-consuming and expensive. To make it work intuitively takes a lot of time, advanced thought and testing. If it isn’t easy to use, people will not adopt it. And as with anything new, getting people to change their habits and adopt new technology is always a challenge but once they do they never go back!
What has been rewarding about bringing your idea to life?
I had a co-parent user approach me recently and tell me they were using my product and it has been a game-changer in her divorce. She said that prior to using FamilyDocket they could not communicate in a healthy way. Now they are using our text message and our in-app messaging features and her lawyer is able to use those messages easily in her case. She said she was surprised her lawyer didn’t start her on this path and that it should be required for everyone going through a divorce. That kind of positive experience is why we started FamilyDocket!
Do you have any advice for others that have an idea for an innovative product or approach, but don’t know where to start?
Do a lot of homework. Get with users and understand what is truly missing. Become a customer of competitors to see what they do well and not so well. Know that it will probably take more time and more money than you initially think it will. But, if you are passionate and hardworking, you can make a differenceWho is your role model or inspiration?
I am always impressed with entrepreneurs that build something out of nothing. Kendra Scott and Sara Blakely come to mind.
How do you bring joy into your workday?
The people part of the business is what I really enjoy – helping divorce professionals or clients see how FamilyDocket can make their lives easier. I like to have relationships with them and not just think of them as customers.
If you could reinvent your career and do something totally different, what would it be?
I have always thought that being a professor would be very rewarding. Both of my parents were professors (one of math and one of statistics) during part of their professional lives. I would enjoy teaching on running a business, giving feedback, public speaking or a new topic that I dive into.
Do you have a mantra or piece of advice you have received that helps you get through diﬃcult times?
Work the problem and ask for help. Don’t ignore it. Problems don’t go way or ﬁx themselves.
I enjoyed Serial and Dirty John.
With my kids, we love Wow in the World for road trips.
I loved Peak and anything by Malcolm Gladwell!
Favorite TV shows?
Game of Thrones and Project Runway. I am not artistic at all but love to see how the designers are able to create these amazing works of art in 48 hours.
Who are your biggest supporters?
My husband, my kids, parents, friends, and investors!