The History of NetDivorce
NetDivorce, LLC, and our pre-Internet company, California Legal Assistance Centers (offices in Riverside and Sacramento) have been in the uncontested California divorce business continuously since June 1981.
California Legal Assistance Centers pioneered divorce by mail in California in the ’80s and ’90s.
Our bulletproof software and systems also run in the background at many other online divorce providers, but we’re sworn to secrecy and cannot tell you who.
NetDivorce CEO and Founder
Peter J. O’Hanlon
Our founder, Peter O’Hanlon, was born in Wales and grew up in New Jersey.
Peter graduated from law school magna cum laude at the age of 20 and was called to the Bar of England and Wales at the age of 21, the youngest possible age.
Peter wrote the world’s first divorce software package (for California) in 1983-84.
In a joint venture, Peter put up the world’s first online divorce website (despite the bogus claim of another company) at divorceweb.com in March 1999.
Peter has been married to the same Welsh witch for 43 years.
Peter is an avid cyclist who routinely rides centuries. He regrets that his 3-mile run time has slipped over the years to 27:10.
On the morning of June 1, 1981, our founder, Peter O’Hanlon, drove his wife to work at the Little Professor Book Center at the Riverside Plaza and then drove a few minutes to get home to sit at a desk he had bought at the Van Buren swap meet in Riverside for $15.
Peter had his $15 typewriter (also Van Buren swap meet) and 100 3-page questionnaires he had copied at the 3 cent copy company downtown.
The prior week, Peter had gone to the PennySaver office on Adams Street and paid $23 to run a 12-word ad in 6 Riverside zip codes.
That ad was going to be published for the first time on June 1.
California Legal Assistance Centers - 1987
Peter is front row, left, and his wife is front row, center
Peter took his first case at 10:15 AM on that June 1 and his second case at about 2 PM that same day.
In those days, he would drive questionnaires to people’s houses and sit there on the porch helping them complete the questionnaire, which he would then take back to his home office and use to type out divorce papers. Later, he’d come back for signatures and then drive down to the old Riverside courthouse to file the case.
The original name of the business was “Divorce American Style,” but Peter changed it to something more official-sounding within just a few weeks. The business became known as California Legal Assistance Centers.
When it was closed in June 1999, California Legal Assistance had done 27, 651 uncontested California divorces.
1988 was the first million-dollar year (that’s $2.4 million in today’s money). All years were million-dollar years until 1996, when Peter began to write an online divorce software package and also began to slow down the divorce-by-mail business. The Internet thing was coming.
Ed West joined the firm in 1985. With occasional help from their wives, both of whom had worked in the firm for many years in the 80’s and 90’s, Peter and Ed have run the business since it went online in 1999.
This was June 1 1999, the date California Legal Assistance Centers was closed, 18 years to the day after Peter sat down at that $15 desk. Here is that $15 desk. Peter hated it every day, but was too superstitious to swap it out. He now has a fancy new Ikea wrap-around desk that he promises he’ll never take a sledge hammer to.
Peter was the first to recognize (in 1981) that California divorce, with its mass of data, confusing forms and difficult laws and procedures that were being interpreted differently in every single courthouse was made for computerization. Software would just crunch that huge and complex paperwork load.
Peter also was the first to recognize (around 1995) that divorce, like all other service industries, was going online.
He had a working online divorce software package by March 1999. He has improved that software constantly ever since.
The last major revision of the software was in 2012. Since that major software upgrade, we’ve handled another 32,000 uncontested California divorces.