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Web Of Support: Easing The Impact Of Divorce



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Web Of Support: Easing The Impact Of Divorce

By Andrew Gorosko

Dodgingtown psychiatrist Stephen P. Herman, MD, is a participating expert for a new Web site on the Internet designed to educate the public about the many issues surrounding divorce.

The Web site, known as SoftSplit.com, is intended to provide useful information to people who are considering divorce, who are going through divorce, or who are rebuilding their lives following a divorce. The information provided on the Web site is intended to ameliorate the negative effects of divorce, hence the name SoftSplit.

Dr Herman is the Web site’s resident expert on parenting. The Web site’s address is www.softsplit.com.

While divorce is not a pleasant topic, it is a pervasive aspect of American life.

“One million children a year in our country go through divorce,” Dr Herman said, adding that many children also experience the effects of a second divorce.

The US has had a 50 percent divorce rate for the past generation, meaning there is a 50 percent chance that a child will not be living with one of his or her biological parents, Dr Herman said.

The SoftSplit Web site, which is a business, is intended to provide an informed, balanced, and comprehensive understanding of divorce and its effects on people’s personal lives and financial situations. The site is intended to remove the mystery, confusion, and isolation of divorce and to enable individuals to make knowledgeable choices, according to SoftSplit.

SoftSplit, LLC, stresses that its Web site is only educational, and the 40 experts which it has recruited to provide information to Web site users are not practicing medicine or law on the Internet, and that no professional client or patient relationship is established through the use of SoftSplit.

The Web site considers divorce in its broadest sense, including family and parenting issues, Dr Herman  said. The SoftSplit site is intended to improve the lives of people affected by divorce, he stressed.

“How can we help families live optimally… given the fact that this [divorce] has happened?” is the premise of SoftSplit, Dr Herman said.

“Right now, everything on the site is free,” he noted.

Although SoftSplit currently does not charge for the use of the inclusive Web site, as the site evolves it will start charging some fees, based on how extensively a person uses it, Dr Herman said. 

The elaborate, technically advanced Web site is divided into six major categories of information: legal, mental health, mediation, parenting, financial, and lifestyles.

Video Streams

SoftSplit makes extensive use of computer video streaming technology, providing users with many videos of its experts giving lectures on various aspects of divorce. The lectures are indexed so that users may view the specific segments of the talks that interest them.

 The site also provides regularly scheduled live webcasts in which the experts field questions from users. The users type in questions on their home keyboards and submit them via e-mail to SoftSplit, after which the experts answer the questions on a live video stream originating from a studio in New York City. The webcasts also are archived to allow users to view them at a later time.

SoftSplit features include discussion rooms, roundtable discussions, chat rooms, a library of divorce-related information, referrals, and a bulletin board service.

Although SoftSplit already is a sophisticated Web site, it plans to make technological improvements as the Internet evolves, Dr Herman said.

“It’s getting ready to advance when the Internet advances,” he said. As more and more Internet users obtain faster connections to the Internet through cable modems and DSL telephone service, the SoftSplit service will be enhanced, he said.

Educational Tool

“We are not doing therapy. This is an educational tool. It’s certainly not long distance therapy. It’s a long-distance educational tool,” Dr Herman said.

SoftSplit is working to become certified to provide the educational courses that some states, including Connecticut, mandate for parents who are going through a divorce.

SoftSplit also is developing a special non-profit section of its Web site intended for use by children affected by divorce, Dr Herman said.

As head of SoftSplit’s parenting section, Dr Herman has assembled a group of psychologists and psychiatrists who provide the Web site’s users with divorce-related information via streaming videos.

 A recent sampling of these videos included information on: child custody; the psychiatric symptoms of divorce on children; child therapy; the effects of divorce on adolescents; visitation; relocation; psychological testing; custody evaluations; child safety nets; parental alienation; and the long-term effects of divorce on children.

The divorce-related issues addressed by SoftSplit will not be static, Dr Herman said.

“This site is a dynamic site. It changes because video changes. It changes because topics change,” he said, adding he is working to keep SoftSplit’s content fresh and timely.

The site plans to provide information to individual users on where they can obtain divorce-related services in their home communities, he said. A user would enter his or her zip code into a dialog box on the computer screen, after which a list of local resources would be provided.

SoftSplit will address the cultural, racial, and ethnic aspects of divorce, Dr Herman said. Step-parenting will be highlighted as an aspect of the “blended family,” or a family which is not a traditional nuclear family.

SoftSplit, which started operation August 8, plans to use celebrities to attract attention to the site, Dr Herman said.

In a video now posted on the site, Dr Herman interviews radio personality Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow about Mr Morrow’s personal experience with divorce.

SoftSplit plans to mount a radio and television advertising campaign to promote its services.

 “I’m as excited about this project as any project I’ve been involved in in my professional career… It brings together all the parallel tracks of my life,” Dr Herman said.

The SoftSplit project draws together his work as a medical doctor, teacher, communicator, and computerist, he said. “All of those factors for me are coming together in this project. That makes it so exciting for me,” he said.

 “It’s taking advantage of what the Internet is now… It’s very interactive… It’s really just beginning,” Dr Herman said.. 

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