Portland-Based Startup Looks to Ease the Pain of Divorce

Photos courtesy of Splitsvil
Heather Egan (left) and Robin Smith

Splitsvil includes community forums, advice for divorcees — and a gift registry.

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Shortly after Robin Smith’s 1998 divorce, her stepbrother suggested they have a barbecue at her house.

There was just one problem: She no longer had a grill. Her ex-husband had taken it when it was his turn to clear the house of his belongings.

Earlier this year, Smith — along with longtime friend Heather Egan — launched Splitsvil. Smith and Egan met through a money-management seminar in the 1990s and found themselves going through divorces around the same time — Smith in 1998 and 2002. Now they’ve launched Splitsvil.net, an online community for people going through separation and divorce.

It’s a project that brewed for more than 20 years. Smith, a longtime paralegal, had written a book about do-it-yourself divorce in Oregon in 1997 but found herself overwhelmed by the practical and legal aspects of divorce, and thought immediately of creating an online community for those going through what she was. She even approached the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network for financing in the early 2000s, but the idea came to a standstill. Still, the idea came up frequently during Smith and Egan’s decades-long friendship, during which they briefly lived together with their children. (They each had two young children at the time of their divorces, who are now grown.)

Then, about a year ago, Smith says, Egan — who currently lives in San Diego — came to visit and Smith said, “Let’s do it. Let’s launch Splitsvil.”

The site includes forums, an advice column and articles about every aspect of going through a divorce, from finding a lawyer to doing taxes to coparenting peacefully.

But its signature feature was the one born on the day of that thwarted barbecue.

“I needed a barbecue,” Smith tells Oregon Business. “Forks, I needed forks. Somehow, he took all the forks and left me all the spoons and knives. It was just crazy.” (She notes that she and her ex are now friendly, as are Egan and her ex.)

So Splitsvil includes a gift registry for people who need to form new households.

“I think that people think it’s sort of wacky. Why would you want to give people stuff when they’re getting divorced? You know, it’s not like a gifting kind of time,” Smith says. But, she counters, many couples get married after living on their own for several years — in 2021 the median age at first marriage was 29, according the U.S. Census Bureau — and that means they often merge two households’ worth of things.

“That’s not the case with people who are getting divorced or splitting up a household. They need stuff,” Smith says.

Right now, Splitsvil is completely open to the public, but participation in the community forums does require a membership.

The cost of launching a website has dramatically decreased in the 20 years since Smith and Egan initially conceived of Splitsvil. The site is currently self-funded, but they are hoping to find additional funding in the form of partnerships with companies in relevant industries like counselors, divorce attorneys and online-dating sites.

And they’re committed to the idea regardless.

“It just sounded like a great opportunity for people like us, regardless of the circumstances, whoever’s at fault — it doesn’t matter — to regain their humility, to be able to raise their children, co-parent, things like that,” Egan says.

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