5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Co-Parenting App
Whether you're experiencing a contentious divorce or working collaboratively through mediation, transitioning into life after divorce can feel like a barely controlled fall. There are just so many unknowns, and it'll be difficult to retain the same sense of control you had before your divorce journey began.
But when it comes to your communication with your co-parent, you have a history of knowledge to pull from to foresee any likely hurdles. That knowledge will help guide you when choosing the best co-parenting app to get you through your divorce.
To use your past communication history to its fullest, ask yourself these 5 questions. Your answers, as long as you're being honest about your own habits and abilities, will help you choose the best option out of the many available apps for divorced parents.
See why you should ask:
- What was our communication like when we were together?
- Was my divorce high-conflict?
- How busy is my schedule?
- What does my parenting plan or court order say?
- Will I be working closely with family law professionals?
1. What was your communication like when you were still together?
Understanding the habits you and your co-parent formed when you were together will highlight where you may need some extra support moving forward.
For example, did one of you do the heavy lifting when it came to getting your children to where they needed to be? If your answer is yes and you have shared residency, that likely will not fly after your divorce, and you should look for a system that has a strong focus on scheduling.
What about child-related expenses and bills? If you and your co-parent were already in sync about handling bills in a timely fashion, the co-parenting app you choose may not need extensive tools in this area. But if expenses were a realm of confusion and last-minute payments, the best co-parenting app for your family will need to provide a clear structure for those interactions.
2. Was your divorce high-conflict?
Moving from a high-conflict split into co-parenting is one of the toughest transitions for parents after a divorce. If you and your co-parent were lucky enough to have amicable proceedings, though it may still be tough, your transition into co-parenting will likely feel a little less bumpy.
But if you did have a high-conflict divorce, or if the end of your relationship was peppered by disagreements and poor communication habits, your initial co-parenting efforts will need extra support and structure.
Email, texts, and phone calls are inappropriate in those instances. While these are all great for friendly communication, they just don't have enough built-in safeguards against conflict and miscommunication.
So if you answered yes to this question, look for a co-parenting app with features that prioritise accountability while also protecting records from manipulation, fabrication, or deletion. To determine if an app has these safeguards in place, contact the company's customer support team and see how they answer these questions:
- Can parents edit or delete each other's entries?
- Can parents backdate information? For instance, can a parent create an event in the past and make it appear as though they shared that information with their co-parent beforehand?
- Are there easily accessible login histories?
- Can parents edit or delete message histories?
- Are first-viewed times recorded when a parent opens a message?
These are just a few examples of the built-in defences your co-parenting app should possess if you're facing conflict.
In addition to answering these questions, contacting an app's customer support team and seeing how quickly you receive a response is another good indicator of whether it'll be the right fit. Any system is going to take some time getting used to, and knowing that you have the support of a responsive and knowledgeable team can be invaluable.
3. How busy is your schedule?
If your family's schedule was complicated before your divorce, it's not going to get any less so when you're parenting from two houses. For parents in this situation, a co-parenting app with a robust shared calendaring system is a must.
As a baseline, regardless of whether your children are involved in twenty activities or two, your co-parenting app should make your parenting schedule easy to follow and understand. It should also have integrated tools for scheduling exceptions to your parenting schedule, like holidays and school vacations.
For families with particularly busy schedules or parenting schedules with frequent changeovers, they'll need extra tools to keep everyone on the same page.
For starters, look for a co-parenting app with detailed event templates. That'll help ensure you and your co-parent are providing all necessary details when sharing information with each other. This prevents parents from needing to engage in lengthy conversations to get everyone up to speed.
You'll also want an app that provides a clear way to handle one-time changes to your otherwise regularly repeating schedule. Parenting time modification requests, when not handled correctly, can be a huge source of conflict. Look for a system that keeps these requests well-documented and crystal-clear.
One last feature that's helpful for busy families is the ability to colour-code pick-up and drop-off responsibilities. When that information is displayed prominently, it makes referencing your calendar that much easier.
4. What does your parenting plan (or child arrangements order) say about communication?
Most parents will have a thoroughly detailed parenting plan to help guide their communication after their divorce. Other families may have court orders that outline how parents should handle their co-parenting. Whatever your situation, it's important to understand the agreements and guidelines that will affect your decisions.
If you've been ordered to have court-monitored communication, for example, it's likely that the judge overseeing your case gave specific instructions as to which co-parenting app you should use. In instances where they leave that choice up to parents but still required communication to be overseen by court staff, choosing a platform that allows for access by professionals is a must. Professional access prevents parents from having to download and forward report after report or sharing their login information, which is never a good idea.
There are other aspects of your parenting plan that can help guide you when choosing the best co-parenting app.
You may want to check whether your parenting plan has a strict outline for handling parenting time modification requests, for instance. Many parenting plans limit the number of requests parents can make over a certain time period or impose timeframes for handling the requests, as well as other restrictions. It's easier to track those limits and timeframes when you have a dedicated parenting time swap tool that keeps easy-to-reference records. Compiling that information from long text message or email threads, on the other hand, is less than ideal and sure to cause a headache.
Parenting plans should also outline how information about children should be shared, which can have a big impact on the best co-parenting app for your family. How far in advance do you need to share event or appointment information? Do you need to respond to expense requests within a certain time period? If there are very specific timelines for your communication, choose a co-parenting app that provides clear records for when entries were created, updated, or responded to. That information can prevent the arguments that arise when parents have conflicting memories of what happened and when.
5. Are you working closely with family law professionals?
If you have been ordered to have court-monitored communication, it seems obvious that using a platform with easy professional access is ideal. But even families who will be communicating without court monitoring can benefit from professional access.
Going through a divorce, you're likely to be working with at least one family law practitioner. Many parents will be working with several, forming a team that could include solicitors, mediators, parenting coordinators, and Cafcass Family Court Advisers.
No matter the makeup of your own team, the situation every parent should aim to avoid is scrambling to provide their family law professionals with complete and pertinent records. Co-parenting apps that allow for comprehensive professional access remove this burden entirely, allowing professionals to gather the information they need when they need it.
But it's not just records and reports that professional access can provide. If you're working with a neutral or collaborative professional, such as a parenting coordinator, they may be playing a much more active role in helping you establish a healthy co-parenting relationship. A co-parenting platform built for the involvement of neutral professionals will allow them to enter parenting schedules, events, expense details, and more.
The most important point of professional access is that the co-parenting app differentiates between your activity and your professional's. Systems that require you to share login information with family law practitioners can never be relied on to create accurate records of parent activity.
Answering these 5 questions should give you a very clear picture of the type of co-parenting app that's best for your situation. Whatever app you choose, give yourself time to learn the ropes and adjust to the changes it will make to your communication. Growing pains are normal, but they should resolve with time and practice.
If you're interested in discovering whether OurFamilyWizard is the right fit for your family, here are some helpful links to more information about how OFW features and tools address the concerns outlined above.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.