Divorce is hard, but it ends. Co-parenting, on the other hand, lasts forever. Even after your kids are grown, there will be graduations, weddings, grandchildren's birthday parties. If the thought of having to interact with your ex for decades to come makes your head spin, you're not alone. Unfortunately, when you live apart from your child's other parent, you have a lot of logistics to communicate about, and it's often stressful to have to do so. The advent of e-mail and text messages helped minimize some of the gut-churning of having to speak to an ex face-to-face or hear your ex's voice on the phone, but as technology has advanced, so have options for co-parent communications. Take a look at some of the best apps and online tools to make co-parenting easier.
There's a reason Our Family Wizard is a perennial favorite among family law attorneys and clients. Like many popular co-parenting apps, OFW allows you to message others in the family, share calendars, and track expenses. What sets this site apart is the ability for attorneys and other professionals (including the court) to log in and see shared information for themselves at parents' requests. This eliminates the "he said/she said" that is so often involved in family disputes, and communications on the site are protected from tampering. The site also features a blog with helpful articles on co-parenting.
Although OFW was designed for families in separate households, many of its features are helpful for families that live under the same roof. There is a fee for use, but the site offers a discount for military families, and most families who use the service consider the price (around ten dollars per month, depending on the plan chosen) well worth the cost.
Cozi bills itself as the "surprisingly simple family organizer," and its ease of use is part of its charm. A free service that can be used from any mobile device or computer, Cozi highlights users' ability to keep activities and events all in one place, make and share grocery lists, and even meal plan. A bit more bare-bones than Our Family Wizard, Cozi is nevertheless a great option for families that don't want to pay for service and whose primary concern is managing the complex schedules of two separate households and the kids who live in them.
Alimentor, available on the Apple platform, is a scheduling app and calendar whose most notable feature is its ability to create detailed reports of the time each parent spends with the children, including when that time deviates from the parenting agreement. The app also features expense tracking and an intuitive calendar that alerts you when your scheduled time with the children coincides with holidays or other events in your calendar.
Like Our Family Wizard, 2Houses is designed for families who live under more than one roof (though it can also be useful for a single household with busy schedules.) Priced at around ten dollars per month, the site offers a shared, color-coded calendar that is invaluable for complicated parenting schedules as well as communicating day-to-day events like sports practices and scout troop meetings. 2Houses also offers a simple financial management system with the ability to break expenses out by category, a journal that functions as a private social network for the family, and the ability to post and share pictures. Available for use on a home computer or mobile app, 2Houses lets parents share to-do and shopping lists and store documents.
Many of the tools and apps for co-parenting work well for parents who want and need to communicate about their kids, but prefer a little distance and structure when doing so. For some parents, though, the co-parenting relationship is so fraught and contentious that it's possible that any future communication between them will end up back in front of a judge. For those parents, TalkingParents may be a better option; in fact some courts may order it, in high-conflict cases, as the only form of communication parents are to use.
The site keeps a complete record of communications between parents. It maintains these record as an independent third party, and parents cannot edit delete anything they have said. The site tracks not only what was said and by whom, but when, along with when parents sign in and out and view communications that were sent to them—so no one can claim "I didn't get the message."
The bottom line is that clear communication is essential to successful co-parenting. It's wonderful when parents are able to achieve that on their own, but even when they're not, it's good to know that there are no- or low-cost options to help so that everyone can focus on what's most important: making sure the kids have the love, support, and attention of both parents.
We invite you to contact our law office to learn about other resources and online tools to make co-parenting easier.
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