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Divorce may be the end of your marriage but it is not the end of your relationship with your kid’s other parent. Far from it. You’ll be connected at least until your child graduates high school, most likely through college and then probably far beyond. That means you’ll have plenty to talk about and co-parenting communications is key.
Believe it or not, many families manage to do this just fine. They know that communication is key to resolving the most common co-parenting challenges. They adapt how they’ve been communicating while living under the same roof to their new situation and just keep going. Their regular emails, text, calendar all work great.
For others, it’s not so easy. Divorce will likely have exacerbated any existing communication obstacles. Using your regular email and text becomes too chaotic and unreliable. You think you’re imagining things when events disappear from the shared Google calendar and you disagree on so many things that you know you’ll be heading back to court.
That’s when you need what we divorce professionals call a “third-party communication platform” or a co-parenting app. That’s a platform or an app that provides a way for you and your child’s other parent to communicate about parenting issues and to have all those communications in one place. It makes tracking issues easier and messages don’t go missing. It can eliminate the he said/she said debates
One of the leading and most well-established third-party communication platforms is Our Family Wizard. They’ve been in business for over 20 years and are recognized by many judicial districts around the U.S. They certainly aren’t the only provider. If you are looking for co-parenting app, I encourage you to compare the features against these and use that to make a list of pros and cons for your situation ‘cos it’s better to choose right the first time and save yourself the pain and hassle of having to switch platforms.
Essential Features For Co-Parenting Communication
Here are the key functions in OFW Co-parenting App
- Communication – provides messaging between you and your child’s other parent
- Calendar – provides a calendar to set up parenting schedules, child’s activities, and appointments
- Expense sharing – mechanism to request reimbursement of child-related expenses
- Info Bank – place to store all the key information for your child
- Journal – a place to track important moments and check-ins
These are all useful for every co-parenting situation. Like I said, if you have even an average co-operative relationship with your ex, you may not need all of these or you might be able to manage using existing tools like your email. You may even have been using a shared Google or Outlook calendar before your divorce.
If you’re tending towards the high-conflict end of the parenting spectrum, then these functions are all essential. Using an application that offers all of these features in one place will save you time, avoid miscommunications and help preserve your relationship with your coparent.
How do you know if you’re high-conflict? See here … And remember, parallel parenting does not make you a bad parent.
The Our Family Wizard Co-parenting app provides you with a way to message each other. You choose whether you receive those messages in real-time or digest form. The advantage with the digest is that it minimizes interruptions, and you can set aside a single dedicated time once a day to review the messages.
Typically, parents agree to use OFW for all non-emergency communications and are permitted to text or email the other party when there is an emergency. Emergencies are defined for example, as any message concerning the health of your child that cannot wait 24 hours or anything that relates to a parenting exchange happening in the next 24 hours.
OFW offers an optional add-on of a “ToneMeter™” which will scan the message as you type and give you feedback on how to reword so that it is less likely to trigger a reaction. The ToneMeter™ doesn’t stop you from sending your message as you’ve written it and nor does the recipient see the feedback from the tone meter. It’s there to coach you towards communications that aren’t going to trigger your ex.
A major advantage of using any third-party parenting communication app is that unlike regular emails, there is a complete record of these messages. They can’t be altered, and they can’t be deleted. That means that an official record can be generated and submitted to a court if you and your ex go back on a parenting issue. I can’t over-emphasize this advantage for parents at in the high-conflict realm.
OFW Co-Parent Calendar
As you would expect, the OFW platform provides for a shared co-parenting calendar with a built-in calendar for Holidays. This means you can build the regular parenting schedule, with different colors for each parent so you can see your parenting time at a glance.
I would also add your child’s appointments, such as doctor, dentist, parent teacher conferences and activities like soccer practice and choir concert. Doing this means your ex has no need to message you about what time an event is. You can train them to refer to the app.
Parenting time conflicts are inevitable so there is a feature that allows you to ask the other parent to trade parenting time. The other parent doesn’t have accept the request. If the request is accepted, then the calendar is updated. Again, these communications are recorded.
One feature I really like is that you can give access to the calendar to other people, such as your child, grandparents and/or caregivers. For young children, it’s always helpful to post a physical calendar so they can see where they’ll be when. Sharing this digital calendar is an update on. It means your child can check their schedule whenever they want. Sharing with a caregiver is also key if that caregiver is helping to transport your child to activities.
Child-Related Expense Sharing
In my experience, there is no way to avoid having to request reimbursement for child-related expenses. How these are to be shared should be detailed in your parenting plan, but you’ll inevitably end up paying the full expense for something and then having to ask your ex to pay you back. Our Family Wizard parenting app makes it easy to snap a photo of the receipt and request payment of the amount owed.
You can make payment via app or outside the app using another platform like Venmo. You can then mark the expense as reimbursed. And if you don’t agree you need to share the expense, then you can decline it.
Once again, there’s a record of all the requests and resolutions which should help to manage future disputes.
OFW Info Bank
Divorced or not, a central repository for important information connected to your child is helpful. It saves messages to the other parent and when communications are strained, the more you can do to reduce messaging, the more you’re going to do to manage the conflict.
OFW’s Info Bank provides a place to store contact details for your child’s medical practitioners, insurance coverage, medications, coaches … you name it, you can put it here. And again, you can give caregivers access to this which means they’ll have the information at their fingertips when they need it.
One more function offered by the OFW Coparenting app is the Journal. For the more co-operative parents, this is a place to share memories, milestones, photos and more.
The feature in the OFW Journal that I think would be most helpful, especially in high-conflict situations, is the Check-Ins. This allows you to record your arrival for parenting exchanges and other important locations with a GPS-verified log in. Again, the record-keeping from this means that disputes about whether you were at a designated place at a specified time are unlikely.
I said earlier that parents who are in a high conflict situation would be well-advised to use a third-party communication app. So, what constitutes a high conflict situation?
- If you had/have a contested custody hearing. Chances are there was or is a Child Family Investigation or a Parental Rights Evaluation
- You’re working with a Parenting Coordinator/Decision-Maker
- There is a protection order between you and your child’s other parent that limits your ability to communicate
Our Family Wizard is particularly helpful in these situations for two key reasons. First, you can add a professional account at no cost. For example, I as your parenting coordinator can log on and see the communications between you and your ex. It means I’m not relying on you or your ex to forward emails which could be selective. I get to see the full picture.
Second, Our Family Wizard, having been in business for 20 years is well-known to the U.S. Courts. Many jurisdictions will accept the downloaded detailed reports as is as true, accurate and complete records. And if you’re in a jurisdiction that doesn’t, then OFW will provide certified copies.
OFW CO-Parenting App Is Affordable
Both you and your ex need to subscribe to OFW – it doesn’t work if only one of you subscribes. The cost starts at $99 per party per year. That’s just $8.25 per month. The optional ToneMeter™ is an additional $10. There is no charge for third-party access such as your child, grandparents or divorce professional.
If that sounds costly to you, think about this. If it saves you even an hour of your attorney billing in resolving a dispute about a parenting exchange or expense reimbursement, you’re already ahead.
Discounts are available for the military and multi-year subscriptions. There’s also a fee-waiver program for low income parents.
Additional important considerations are that OFW comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and 24/7 live customer service support.
No matter what third party communication app you choose, it’s an investment that goes beyond the basic cost. It always takes me time to learn how to use all the features of a new app and here, no matter what app you choose, one of you is going to have to set the shared calendar. This isn’t something you can do half-heartedly. If you put in the effort, it will work for you. But choosing the right app from the start is going to save you a lot of frustration.
If you enjoyed reading this, then you might also like How To Use Technology To Solve Your Most Common Co-Parenting Problems.
Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash
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