Salukis in Business — Aaron Carnine
J.D. 1997 Law — SIU School of Law
When a couple shares the same roof, things like the child’s soccer practice, doctors’ appointments and family celebrations are handled by a calendar on the fridge or conversations over dinner. Permission slips get signed with no fuss, and the children’s picture day goes by without a hitch except, maybe, for the errant cowlick.
But when a couple decides to divorce, the normal rhythms of communication about the day-to-day life of their children can be disrupted. Add angry feelings to that, and communication may cease.
That’s where SIU alumnus and family law practitioner, Aaron S. Carnine, comes in. Carnine has developed a secure website, OurChildInfo.com (OCI), which allows divorced parents to communicate directly about their child through a central communication system that is considered verifiable “written notice,” by the courts.
“When the first parent signs up, the second parent gets an automatic email that says, here’s a site, here’s what it does. It’s free. This is the same thing as me telling you I’m changing my phone number or me telling you I’m changing my address. This is how I will be communicating with you now,” said Carnine.
But unlike texts, emails or voice mails, the posts, replies, documents, and photos on OCI cannot be deleted by either parent. Every post is automatically tagged by poster, time and date, so the site serves as a record of shared information … or ignored questions.
“I had been practicing family law for over a decade, and became frustrated with the number of times I found myself in front of a judge because a couple simply could not find a way to transcend their emotional issues and communicate about their children,” Carnine said.
The site is not free, but the nominal $7.50 per month charge does allow a second parent free access to the service, so “I didn’t have the money,” no longer becomes an excuse.
Additionally, after every post or reply, an email is sent automatically to the other parent advising of a post, and a “log file,” which shows a complete, chronological record of all posts, documents, photos, uploads, can be retrieved at any time. It also records each log in to the system, so if the is lurking, but not responding, there is a record that they have had “eyes on” the information.
“That way an absence of response actually creates a record of delay or avoidance. And, the website can be a repository of custody orders, child support orders, medical bills, sports schedules, and more, so both parents have easy access to whatever they might need to continue to support their children,” Carnine said.
Carnine, who transferred to SIU law from a Chicago law school, is no stranger to website creation. In fact, he helped to create the SIU School of Law’s first web page.
“I chose to finish my degree at SIU Law two reasons. First, one hundred thousand dollars, is the amount of money I saved by finishing my degree at SIU. And second, the same study of law exists down here as it does throughout Illinois. So transferring really was a no brainer,” Carnine said.
When he transferred to SIU in 1995, Carnine came with a basic background in computers, which put him miles ahead of most people. Windows 3.1 had just come out as computers moved from DOS to graphic interface, and email was just becoming a legitimate business tool.
“When I started at SIU, they asked if I could write web pages, and so I said yes, and then I went out and bought a book that taught me how to do that. I knew enough about technology and computers at that point to be confident in my abilities to do that. So I ended up writing the Law School’s first web page, and that was the start of my work online,” Carnine said.
Carnine graduated with a Law, J.D from SIU in 1997, passed the Illinois Bar Exam in 1998, began working for Black, Ballard, McDonald, P.C. in 1999, and has been practicing family law with them ever since.
Carnine said the idea for the web service occurred to him while he was driving to court for yet another Rule to Show Cause hearing, which, in a divorce case, is a court order used to schedule a hearing to complain that the other party isn’t following a court order or to seek interim relief from the court.
“It frustrated me that I had clients caught in a cycle of using the courts to mediate their communication issues. It clogs up the docket, and wastes time and money. There was a real need to document communication, or lack thereof, right down to the day and time, in one place, but there was an absence of a secure way to do that,” Carnine said.
Carnine said the OCI website not only does all of that, but it is secure in the way that a bank account or your medical records are secure — its on the dark web.
“Many people are confused about that that term means. It simply means that the information is not publicly accessible. Your bank account exists on the dark web. So does OCI. This means that clients can post medical records, or court or other sensitive documents, and they cannot be accessed by anyone, other than the account holders. Out of respect for parents, to be free of judicial oversight, no one else except the two parents can log in.” Carnine said.
Carnine said this eliminates the cycle where one parent brings the other in front of a judge to force them to communicate, and that is something that judges really appreciate.
“Judges can order parents to communicate exclusively through OCI to reduce repeat court appearances. If the parents return to court there will be a clear record of all communication that can be easily saved to a USB Flash drive which a lawyer can present directly to the judge,” Carnine said.
Carnine says that the website is smartphone compatible, allowing parents to upload pictures, and documents directly to their secure account. They can also download a log file, which includes a merged chronology of communications between parents, including a time and date stamp, at any time.
“I did my best to make it as low cost as possible, so that anyone, regardless of income level, would be able to use the service. That’s important, because the reason for all of this communication in the first place, is to protect and care for the children affected by a divorce,” Carnine said.
Carnine said that many parents do not stop to consider that when they stop talking to each other, they start talking through their children, and that is not healthy for the child involved.
“Kids necessarily go back and forth between parents. They necessarily go to school, they go to the doctor, they have sporting events. Then parents get complacent with saying, tell your dad or tell your mom you’re going to be here, tell your dad you’re going to be here. So invariably, unwittingly, the child becomes the messenger,” Carnine said.
Carnine said that according to the feedback he has received from clients, it appears that OCI solves about 90 to 95 percent of communication issues. OCI’s format is a lot like what people experience on social media, so people tend to be comfortable using it.
And there’s data to back that up. In 2018 OurChildInfo.com was listed as a top 15 startup company by the American Bar Association (ABA), and it won a spot at the ABA TECHSHOW in February 2019.
“OCI is accessible Nationwide, so anyone, anywhere in the United States can use it. We’ve been up and running for two years now, and hundreds of people have signed up for the service and have used it successfully,” Carnine said.
With regard to current Saluki law students, Carnine offers the following advice:
“If you if you think that you’re not learning anything in law school, that’s untrue. You are learning how to learn and that you can do it. Law school is hard, but if you can make it through the phase where you are paying them to learn, you will make it to the private practice area where they pay you to learn. Don’t lose sight of that,” Carnine said.
Carnine will also be speaking to the Jackson County Bar Association on Thursday, October 17, at Hunan in Carbondale.
Carnine lives in Mt. Vernon with his wife of 17 years, Laura, and his son, Truman, who is in the sixth grade.