The key to successful co-parenting after a divorce or breakup is effective communication. Unfortunately, miscommunication is all too easy, and a failure of communication can devolve into a spiral of blame and finger-pointing. Messages passed from one parent to another through the kids can get lost or forgotten (and put an unfair burden on the kids). Direct contact between co-parents may be tense, uncomfortable, or even hostile. In short, when communications fail, you suffer—and your kids suffer even more.
Fortunately, there is a simple, and relatively inexpensive, solution. Online co-parenting tools offer an opportunity to communicate clearly, document what has been shared, and access family information at the click of a button. These tools give parents a chance to share important information directly with each other, without having to speak with each other.
Our Family Wizard is one of the oldest and best known of the co-parenting tools, but there are many others. While we will be referring to Our Family Wizard (OFW) throughout this post, you should also explore some of the other options to see which has the features that work best for you and your family.
Think of them as command centers for co-parenting. Accessible from your computer or phone, they allow you to upload information your co-parent needs to know, or instantly access information your co-parent has shared.
Think about all of the logistics you need to juggle when the job of parenting is shared between two households. You need to be aware of who is scheduled to have parenting time when. You need to know when the children have sports practice, club meetings, music lessons, and other extracurricular events. You need to know when school assignments are due and when medical appointments are scheduled. You may need to submit expenses to and get reimbursement from your co-parent, or make payment to them. Sometimes you just want to share a picture of your child that you know the other parent would appreciate.
Our Family Wizard and other similar apps allow you to do all of these things. Let’s talk about some of the product features that can make your life easier.
Many of the co-parenting tools got their start as a way for parents to share calendars. Over time and with parent feedback, they have evolved into shared interactive calendars with plenty of useful features. On Our Family Wizard, you and your co-parent can put your data into a single calendar that allows you to easily see scheduling conflicts.
Because life is unpredictable, you may occasionally need to swap or make up scheduled parenting time. OFW has a trade/swap tool that allows you to request one-time modifications of parenting time, and get confirmation that your co-parent has agreed. There’s also a Holiday Scheduler that lets you see, far into the future, what holiday time you’re scheduled to have with your kids so you can plan better.
Ever sent your ex a text about something to do with the kids, only for them to claim they never received it? Or said something in an angry email that you wished you hadn’t? OFW has your back. They have their own server, so messages don’t get lost. When a message is first read, it’s timestamped. And messages cannot be deleted once sent. Fortunately, there’s also a “tone meter” that alerts you when you’re using language or tone that might be inflammatory, so you can reconsider before hitting “send.” Customizable reports of communications are also available.
Conflicts over money can cause tremendous stress and mistrust in a co-parenting relationship. OFW’s expense log allows you to document expenses and make detailed reimbursement requests. The app also streamlines payments while keeping both parents’ financial information secure. If parents each need to pay a part of certain expenses, OFW can calculate each parent’s share. The app also allows you to review customizable reports of expenses. When you make a payment through the app, it is documented; you never have to prove that the other parent got the money.
Do you remember your child’s blood type? Shoe size? Immunization record? OFW offers parents an info bank where they can securely store, and access, important information such as these details when needed. The Info Bank has a “My Files” section to which you can upload important forms and documents so you don’t need to root through a filing cabinet or email inbox to find them.
If you get irritated when your co-parent is consistently 20 minutes late to pick up or drop off your child, or frustrated because your co-parent unfairly accuses you of being unreliable, OFW features a “check-in” feature which allows you to verify when a parent arrives at a pick-up or drop-off location.
And, of course, co-parenting is about more than just managing schedules, finances, and obligations. OFW also has a journal feature called “Moments.” You can make a private journal entry, or share special moments with your child’s other parent—something funny your child said, or their reaction to scoring the winning goal at their soccer game. You can attach pictures to journal entries, too. This feature accomplishes something very important: the ability for both parents to remain involved and engaged in moments that matter to their child.
You can use OFW and other co-parenting apps to document communications, payments, parenting time, and more to share with the courts if necessary. Equally important, you can streamline your interactions with your ex, keeping each other informed while keeping relations cordial. And the real benefit to that is that it makes life easier for your kids.
If you haven’t been using a co-parenting tool, you’re missing out. The small monthly fee is worth it for the stress it relieves. If you have further questions about Minnesota child custody and co-parenting, we invite you to contact Mundahl Law.