Technology, including the internet, can be used unwisely, especially in the context of divorce and family law. Many divorces have started with a bored spouse looking up an old flame on social media, and many custody battles have been inflamed by social media posts and photos. But there are also many good uses for technology in a divorce, especially in the context of working together for the benefit of your children. Let's explore some of the best apps and online tools for co-parents.
In order to know which apps will best serve your family's needs, it is important to consider what those needs might be. The good news is that technology offerings are continually evolving as more and more co-parents use them and offer feedback, so it is increasingly likely that you will find an app or website that works for you.
When you live in the same household, you can leave a reminder, a bill, an invitation, or a schedule on the fridge for the other parent to see. More importantly, you can simply talk to each other over dinner. Once you're living in separate households, those tried-and-true methods of communication are usually no longer available.
The need for effective communication is probably the number one reason co-parenting apps and websites are flourishing. Not only is it no longer convenient to communicate with your ex, it may not be comfortable. As a result, essential messages may not get shared, or parents might try to use their children as messengers. Not only is this unreliable (as most parents know), but it puts an unfair burden on the children.
Beyond the general need for an effective means of communication, there are other reasons co-parents who no longer live together should consider using online tools or apps. Parents often share expenses for the children and need to account for expenditures. Many apps are set up to meet this need, making it easier to both request payment and document expenses.
Many of the best online tools started out as shared calendars, and that function is an essential one for most two-household families. Scheduling mix-ups, even if innocent, can cause frustration and resentment. An easily accessible shared calendar may prevent that needless stress.
Of course, there are situations in which parents deliberately miss events or act in a hostile manner toward one another. Many parents who have been on the receiving end of bad behavior from a co-parent have wished they had evidence of that to present in court. Some apps and websites will not allow communications to be deleted or edited after they are made, and some allow access to others, such as guardians ad litem or attorneys. Of course, just knowing that communications can be preserved as evidence may motivate parents to consider what they say before they write and regret it.
On a more pleasant note, many of these sites also allow parents to upload photos and journal entries, so that both parents feel they are a part of important events in the children's lives.
If you've only heard of one co-parenting app, chances are it's Our Family Wizard. One of the earliest and best-known apps, Our Family Wizard is often recommended by courts, and sometimes ordered to be used. This comprehensive site carries a fee for use, but most users consider it money well-spent. Information that is uploaded cannot later be altered, so if you share information with your ex, he or she cannot later deny that you did so.
Another popular app, in use by over 150,000 families in 163 countries, is 2Houses. The site offers a calendar with color-coding for each family member, shared shopping lists and photo albums, tools for managing finances, and document storage. In addition, the site serves as a social network for your family, with the ability to upload photos and journal entries.
Cozi is probably one of the most widely-known apps, and is often used for families that share a household as well as for those with parents who live apart. Popular features include to-do and shopping lists, family calendar, and daily agendas. Family photos and memories can be shared not only between parents, but with other family members, including grandparents.
More specifically designed for divorced and separated families, Cofamilies describes itself as an "online divorce solution that puts co-parenting first." This site is notable for its thorough documentation of communications should those be needed to present as evidence in court. In addition, the site offers the ability to coordinate schedules, make payments to the other co-parent, and collaborate on decisions regarding the children. Coparently is also designed for families living apart, and features many of the same tools, including scheduling, money management, and communication.
These are only five of the many options available. In general, the tools that charge a fee for use offer more features than those that are free, although even the free co-parenting tools have a lot of utility. In addition, some of those that charge a fee offer a 30-day free trial so that you can see if the service works for you. Take your time, explore options, and you will almost certainly find an app or online co-parenting tool that meets the needs of your family.
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