Role of Online Dispute Resolution in Settling Matrimonial Disputes

The Settlement Table
4 min readApr 8, 2022


Marriage and family are the two foundational building blocks of Indian society, and it is an institution that holds a vital role in the web of complex Indian cultures. As time progressed, traditional joint families have dissolved and paved the way for nuclear families in cities and towns.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The changing times have not only influenced many urban women to enter the workforce but also changed gender roles. With changing gender equations in modern society and the potentially decreasing gender gap, the traditional chains of orthodox cultures are seemingly breaking. 1.36 million Indians are divorced, equivalent to 0.24% of the married population and 0.11% of the total population. In addition, the number of people separated is nearly thrice the number of people divorced, which means 0.61% of the married population and 0.29% of the total population. This translates to the fact that there exists a slow dispute resolution system in Indian courts and a concerning stigma associated with divorce.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

Today, there is an overwhelming integration of technology in our lives. The internet has become an essential tool for the functioning of modern society and a medium vital for day-to-day communication. Covid-19 has accelerated the growing need for technological assistance in our everyday life, and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is an example of a system birthed from the technological revolution designed to resolve disputes with the help of information and technology. Online Dispute Resolution or Electronic Alternate Dispute Resolution (E-ADR) is a hybrid dispute resolution mechanism that incorporates technology to facilitate conventional procedures like negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

MODRIA and Matrimonial Disputes in the USA

In the United States of America, courts have employed ODR systems to facilitate speedy redressal in low-value cases such as small claims and landlord-tenant disagreements. In 2011, the courts in Clark County, Nevada, used the Modular Online Dispute Resolution Implementation Assistance (MODRIA) mechanism to assist the courts in family disputes. The system provides step-by-step assistance to the parties through an online process to help resolve disputes as quickly as possible. The MODIRA software helps pre-negotiate issues before a formal hearing or mediation session. Parties can use the online platform to draft a parenting agreement by negotiating legal custody, vacation, timeshare and school breaks. The Family Mediation Center at Clark County has 11 mediators, resolving close to 4,000 cases a year. The MODIRA platform, in collaboration with the Mediation Center, invites couples who are applying for a divorce to use the negotiation process before the first meeting with the mediator in the Family Mediation Center. This process has proven to be time-bound and cost-effective; for instance, if the couples have a consensus on specific subject matters such as legal custody, the platform communicates the same to the mediators, saving time and enabling the mediator to create progress.

ODR in Aiding Matrimonial Disputes in India

The Family Courts Act of 1984 placed responsibility on the courts to resolve disputes via settlement to effectively adjudicate matters. The establishment of the Family Courts in India envisioned promoting conciliation in marriage and family affairs in a secure and speedy manner. The Supreme Court of India, in the case of K. Srinivas Rao vs. D.A.Deepa stated that matrimonial disputes must exhaust the avenues of mediation to facilitate speedy redressal. ODR systems can use powerful software to solve marital disputes, as seen in the case of MODIRA and does not require parties to be physically present in the office of the Mediator. Implementing a pre-negotiation agreement before visiting a mediator can help facilitate a time-bound and effective redressal of the dispute.

Matrimonial disputes are complicated and sensitive and are far more than just a mere legal issue. ODR addresses this reality and does not limit itself to legal techniques but instead goes above and beyond to harness interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary expertise to improve outcomes.

Plausible Implementation of ODR Mechanisms in India

To facilitate an effective ADR mechanism envisioned by the Family Courts Act, there is a need for the right expertise, and expedient adjudication of matters. The lack of appropriate training and infrastructure, causes significant pressure on parties while travelling to courts to mediate issues. There is also the pressing concern of enforceability that concerns the legitimization of the outcomes of ODR process. The Family Courts must be empowered to refer disputes to ODR and the courts must be provided with technology to facilitate the same. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 must recognize the use of online platforms to solve family disputes as this will add on to the enforceability of the agreements and decisions arrived upon. As the new generation creates new relations by way of the internet, the same could be used to solve differences between them. This will not only save time and money but also help them realize the importance of the institution of marriage and family.

Keywords: Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, Family Courts Act 1984, Matrimonial Disputes, MODIRA and Online Dispute Resolution

Author’s Byline:-

Reyhan Sujith is a third year law student pursuing a degree in BBA LLB at Christ (Deemed to be University). The article authored by him talks about the role of Online Dispute Resolution in settling matrimonial disputes, the effectiveness of ODR platforms like MODIRA in the United States of America and the plausible implementation of ODR in India.



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