Tech help for the co-parent

Our phones can do everything else, now they can help parent.

Joint custody and co-parenting arrangements mean more cooperation and communication with your ex-partner and still-parent of your child. You were divorced for a reason and sometimes making the necessary arrangements is easier said than done. When there is conflict, it affects children negatively, even if they aren’t directly involved.

While it’s always important to minimize conflict and stress, finding a way to make life work between two households and up to four guardians (in households are remarried) is complicated.

As calendar apps and management software have developed, they’ve become helpful tools for parents to manage schedules, communication and finances. In contentious parental arrangements, they can reduce face-to-face time effectively while still tracking duties.

When ex-spouses can’t get along, sometimes having a detailed record of communication relaxes the tone. Instead of a combative “he said, she said” courtroom, it’s a matter of opening the app to see. Many divorce courts now require the use of technology in parental coordination.

Software options

There are items ranging from Google’s Calendar application, to paid subscription services that monitor and timestamp receipts, when a message was read, and more. With a wide variety, it’s best to figure out what suits your needs, your relationship with your ex and your technical fortitude.

Basic options

Calendar apps, like Google and others, can share your schedules and also your child’s. These are usually simple apps that follow the model of the print calendar hanging on your wall at home. Just write in what time an appointment is, and share it will another user via phone number or email address.

Popular apps include Google Calendar, Cozi, Skedi and CoFamilies.

Detailed options

In high-conflict relationships, sometimes communication in writing is easier than in person. Apps don’t just provide messaging and calendars. Some provide expense tracking for the children and will timestamp when a message was first read.

This way, if issues arise, there’s a clear answer to an “I told you so” argument. If it’s hard to call your ex to ask if your child ate on the way home, you can look at the app and it will show a receipt from the restaurant. Some even provide GPS tracking through their phone, so you know exactly where everyone is at a given moment.

Popular apps include Our Family Wizard, Life360, 2houses, CustodyJunction, About One, Kidganizer, Exchange Parents and SplitWise.

Technology is user dependent

While there are useful tools and conflict can be managed more easily through software, it’s not always the best route. One 2012 study found that 49 percent of divorced parents used technology in their parental coordination, a figure that has surely risen since.

However, the study also determined that some used the software to clarify and improve communication while others manipulated it to withhold information from a co-parent. The tools may be changing and be more convenient, but any software is dependent on its user. A database is only as good as the data that is uploaded by the user.

It’s often hard to collaborate with someone in the aftermath of a painful divorce. Technology offers parents on the go another way to manage communication and complicated schedules in a controlled environment. It has flaws, but it’s another useful tool that can fill a niche and reduce conflict in co-parenting.

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