Everyone is busy. Not everyone is an effective communicator. When parents live in separate homes it adds another difficult dimension for staying organized with parenting tasks and schedules.
The reality is that nobody can afford to space-out on child pickups and drop-offs, miss payments, and waste time squabbling about basic parenting decisions. Thankfully, modern technology is on your side to help you create a more harmonious approach to child custody.
You have several options for co-parenting apps that are designed specifically for calendaring and secure communication that can be taken before a judge if you absolutely need to. That said, these apps are designed to reduce angry phone calls and face-to-face confrontations, specifically to keep you out of court.
If you are on less-than-amicable terms with the other parent of your child, using a calendaring app is a great way to communicate everything you need—and nothing extra. This will help you maintain sanity while co-parenting with your ex, which is good for you and good for the kids.
Co-parenting apps fall into two categories:
- Paid apps designed specifically for co-parenting. In addition to a shared calendar, these features various methods of secure, un-editable communication, and ledger files for tracking shared expenses.
- Free calendaring apps designed for general use. You set these up yourself. You should be minimally tech-savvy and have a decent line of communication with the other parent.
We’ll go over a few good ones that benefit separated couples who are co-parenting.
Our Family Wizard
Cost: $99/year, per parent
- Calendar – Work from a shared calendar built with one-touch trade and swap features, with automatic documentation logs for when you accept or reject schedule alterations.
- Message Board – Use instant messaging platform where users are unable to edit or remove messages they send.
- Expense Log – Track your parenting expenses and reimbursements. Attach receipts electronically. Connect your credit and debit cards securely via OFWpay for simplified transactions.
- Journal – Chronicle details about events related to child care, such as doctor’s visits, advice from family professionals, notes from teachers, contact with other family members, etcetera.
The “ToneMeter” (extra $10/year) is one useful feature that sets OFW apart from other solutions like it. Think of it as an emotional spell check. It detects and flags emotionally charged messages, and offers users ways to adjust the message into something more appropriate. This reduces harmful and unnecessary back-and-forth between parents, and ensures you look cool, calm, and collected should your messages be reviewed in family court. One of our clients asked an attorney to review 300 pages of heated back-and-forth between separated parents. ToneMeter could have helped to avoid that kind of mess.
Cost: Around $60/year for premium features. (Free version available with features paid for la carte.)
- Shared calendar – Log timesharing events, note appointments, schedule extra-curricular activities in one convenient place.
- Store and share files – Save pertinent images and documents in a searchable library. Logs which files have been shared with parents.
- Unalterable records – Includes details about when every calendar event was recorded or edited, and when each parent reviewed the notification.
- Real-time notifications – Receive push notifications to your device whenever a parent posts a new message.
- Accountable Payments – Keep track of all of your shared parenting expenses. You and your co-parent can make payment requests and securely send or receive money.
- Accountable Calling – Make video or phone calls, complete with call recordings and transcripts, all without disclosing your phone number.
Talking Parents is probably the most popular co-parenting app in use with our clients that have conflict in their past history. The free desktop version has a lot of appeal from the get-go. There are “premium” monthly fees for using the mobile app, and additional fees if you want to create PDFs of calendars, conversations, and notes to show third parties (your lawyer, other professionals, or family court officials). Many parents do end up spending for the premium version instead of paying nickel-and-dime fees for printable documents.
Cost: $12.50/month available year contract for the whole family
- Shared calendar – Build your schedule in an interactive calendar with many similar features as Talking Parents and Our Family Wizard. Synchronizes with major calendaring apps like Google calendar, Outlook, and others.
- Finance tracker – Offers a simple financial logging system for tracking shared expenses. Includes an easy to use reporting dashboard that encodes categorized spending over a period of time.
- Information Bank – Offers secure storage for banking information, social security numbers, medical information, clothing sizes, and whatever else you may need.
- Journal – Contains an extensive information sharing feature that resembles a social network for sharing milestone moments and memories.
2Houses offers streamlined functionality compared to other pay-to-use apps. It offers several of essentially the same features found in more expensive products. There are some usability complaints that are left unaddressed by the makers on Google Play.
Cost: $119.99/year, per parent
- Messaging and documentation: Provides secure, non-editable messaging with time stamps. Includes a feature similar to the ToneMeter in Our Family Wizard, that flags emotionally-charged language and swear words.
- Live Coaching: Delivers a professional support network that is available in real-time chat. Includes live assistance for resolving disputes between parents.
- “Solo” Function: Messaging platform is designed to operate if only one parent signs up for the application.
The live coaching feature differentiates coParenter from the pack and makes this a truly boutique service for co-parenting where there has been a lot of conflict. Note that each time you use ‘on demand’ professional services you use credits, for which you have a certain allotment. You may purchase extra.
Cost: $99/year, per parent
- Custody calendar: Set-up and manage parenting time and events in a color-coded calendar.
- Messaging: Secure, un-editable, and time stamped communication similar to what other apps offer.
- Expense tracking: Tabulate and track your shared expenses and payments in a printable and exportable format.
The differentiating feature is the guest access to the messaging platform. It gives parents flexibility to share scheduling and logistical information with guest users (a family lawyer, caretaker, grandparents, children) while cordoning off parents’ communication logs.
Google Calendar & Sheets
- Google Calendar– Available to both parents once it is created and the other parent is invited.
- Google Sheets – Integrate a simple spreadsheet to track expenses
If you are reasonably handy with Google’s tools and into DIY organization, and more importantly you have a workable co-parenting situation with the other parent, then the Google Suite is a powerful tool to keep your schedules on track. The only thing you need is a Google account, which is free.
After setting up the calendar and inviting the other parent, it’s helpful to set your preferences so that all updates trigger an e-mail any time something is added or updated in the calendar. For events like a doctor’s appointment or teacher conference, simply enter notes right in the calendar for the other parent to review.
- Shared calendar – Coordinate schedules in one secure location. Set reminders, add color coding, and share across devices.
- Consolidated lists – Designate one place for your shopping lists, to-do lists, and receipts that are accessible from anywhere with a data connection.
Cozi is a family planner that is not necessarily for separated families. It is a functional way to stay organized if parents live separately and in relatively low conflict. It offers a straightforward way to set up a shared calendar and keep everyone’s busy schedules on the same page.
Let us know which co-parenting apps you are using or considering, and any specific details or tips that might help parents with their decision.