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The benefits of a co-parenting app

By 04/07/2024No Comments

In this issue of the magazine, Jennie Apsey, Solicitor in the Family Department at Dean Wilson LLP, explores co-parenting apps.

Separated parents know only too well that sharing the responsibilities of parenting and communicating about contact arrangements, children’s extra-curricular activities, holidays, and school events can prove difficult, especially if they are not on good terms. Often, parents can feel overwhelmed juggling communication and keeping track of arrangements via multiple methods of communication such as texts, WhatsApps, emails, Facebook Messenger and calls, and doing so can lead to information being missed and minor disagreements and misunderstandings escalating into major conflict. This is where use of a co-parenting app can really help.

What is a co-parenting app and what are the most popular ones available in the UK?
A co-parenting app is a tool which can assist parents in communicating, organising, and documenting arrangements for their children, whilst helping to reduce conflict and providing a permanent digital record that is tamper-proof, putting an end to who said what and when.

There are a variety of different apps available in the UK including OurFamilyWizard, AppClose, 2houses and Talking Parents, to name just a few, all of which are available to download from the App Store and Google Play. Communication is at the heart of all these apps, and they have many shared features but also some variations, so it is a good idea to do some research to see which would meet your family’s needs before signing up to one. Some are free and some require a yearly subscription, albeit the cost is not significant, especially when shared between parents. Some that require a subscription offer free 14-day trials to allow you to check whether the app works for you and covers everything your family needs it to.

What are the usual features of a parenting app?
A secure messaging feature is key, and many come with a date and time stamping feature on the messages. At the touch of a button you can print out complete conversations should they be required, which eliminates the need for taking multiple screenshots of texts or printing out email trails. There are also shared calendars for co-ordinating pick ups and drop offs, GPS and expense trackers, payment facilities, and options to share medical information, school reports and photos. Some apps also have an in-built parenting plan tool to assist parents in coming to an agreement about child arrangements and some also have a professional access feature to allow parents to share information with their legal teams, counsellors or mediators. OurFamilyWizard’s ToneMeter is particularly popular. It works like a kind of spellchecker, picking up on negative tone and checking whether you are sure you want to send the message or whether you might wish to consider alternative, less inflammatory wording. This can be a useful tool for reducing conflict and over time, improving communication between separated parents. TalkingParents offers recorded phone and video calls, which depending on your own family’s needs, may be a useful tool.

Do the courts ever recommend using a co-parenting app?
Where difficulties in communication are a particular feature of a Child Arrangements case before the courts, use of a co-parenting app is almost always recommended, and in some cases ordered, with OurFamilyWizard featuring prominently in Child Arrangements Orders in the courts of England and Wales.

Are there any disadvantages to using an app?
Aside from there being an associated cost with some of the apps, the only other thing to bear in mind is that whilst they can assist in reducing conflict from miscommunication and the likelihood of arguments taking place in front of the children, they cannot solve or eliminate fundamental differences or disagreements between the parents. If you are unable to resolve an issue with your child’s other parent, you should seek specialist legal advice to discuss your options.

As an ABC reader you can call the Family Department on 01273 249 200 to arrange a no obligation telephone discussion and, if required, a fixed-fee meeting.

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