Technology is (or should be) designed to make our daily lives easier. As anyone who has been through a divorce knows, life can be complicated and contentious both during and after a divorce is finalized.
Whether you have to share parenting time, pay child support, or co-parent with someone you want to communicate with as little as possible, using an app custom-made for the needs of divorced parents can make it easier.
There are several such apps that do just that: provide parents with the tools to organize post-divorce life.
4 Tech Apps That are Tailored to Fit the Needs of Divorced Parents:
1. Our Family Wizard is a multifunctional web portal and app that has many attractive features for both amicable and contentious divorcees. First, there is the Message Board that serves as parents’ primary communication platform. The Message Board has a “ToneMeter” that will preview messages and advise whether they need to be (pun intended) “toned” down if they are too combative.
Second, there is the Calendar. Ex-spouses can use the Calendar to:
- Display their regular custody schedule and holiday schedule,
- Inform the other parent of events in the child’s day-to-day lives such as soccer practices or tutoring, and
- Request changes to the regular custody schedule and holiday schedule.
Parents can also include private events on the Calendar to help coordinate their own time with the child while maintaining a level of privacy. It provides a happy medium to keep one another informed and amicably resolve scheduling issues and conflicts. Third, there is secure storage of up to 10GB so parents can upload and store photos, report cards, and other documents regarding their child.
Although designed to fit the needs of divorced parents, Our Family Wizard is also available to individuals other than parents. Nannies, grandparents, and children’s therapists or other treatment professionals can be invited to view and modify the Calendar or other features to be better involved and informed in the child’s life.
There is a cost associated with Our Family Wizard, either an annual or bi-annual subscription starting at $99/year per person, and certain additional features come with a cost. For example, it is an additional $10/year per person to use the ToneMeter and storage beyond 1GB is available for a fee. However, Our Family Wizard does offer military discounts and scholarships for those who qualify.
Depending on the user’s attitude, Our Family Wizard can be either a very useful tool for scheduling and avoiding otherwise fraught communications, all without ever having direct contact with a former spouse, or it can be a headache – just one more form of communication with “the ex” to keep track of. Also, because following the advice of the ToneMeter is not required in order to send a message to the other parent via Our Family Wizard, using the program cannot guarantee “civil discourse” between the parties.
2. 2Houses is a web portal and app with many features that aim to simplify life post-divorce. As with Our Family Wizard, 2Houses provides a calendar where the regular custody and holiday schedule can be uploaded and allows for requests to make one-time changes to the calendar. It also provides a wizard to create custody schedules based on different customary arrangements, or to create a custom schedule.
Further, the calendar can be shared with people outside the family so the child’s nannies, grandparents, etc. can be kept in the loop of the child’s whereabouts and schedule. The 2Houses website does not specifically say that these other individuals can modify or whether private events can be added to the calendar, as is possible with Our Family Wizard.
Additionally, 2Houses provides a platform for payment of child support and spousal support. Parents can make requests for payment for both routine expenses or something new that the child needs, such as a tennis racket. The program also categorizes and analyzes expenses so users can see how much money is being spent across certain categories, such as clothes and school supplies. Further, the program keeps a running total of what has been paid by each parent and what is still due, so there are no discrepancies as to whether any money is owed by either parent.
2Houses also provides a Journal that serves as a “social network” within the program. Parents can write notes, i.e. interesting or funny things the child said that day, post pictures, videos, and other items to keep anyone else who is part of the family group on 2Houses informed of the child’s day-to-day activities and life.
Finally, 2Houses provides for a storage system – parents can upload photos to the Photo Album and can store important information regarding the child in the Information Bank, such as the child’s medical information and the child’s contacts (e.g., child’s pediatrician’s contact information), so that it is available to both parents and the child’s nanny in one convenient place.
The cost to use 2Houses is $9.99/month per family, which includes access to all of 2Houses’ features. 2Houses can be used by only one parent if you want to use its features to manage the calendar and custody schedule without needing your ex-spouse’s participation. However, you cannot use 2Houses to track and categorize expenses without both parents using the program.
3. SupportPay is a secure web portal that focuses on the payment of child support and spousal support. It has a calendar feature as well, but most of its features apply to tracking child and spousal support, so both parents are on the same page. Notably, both parties are not required to use SupportPay for it to be functional: SupportPay can be used by only the parent to keep track of their own payments or receipt of payments.
People can align SupportPay with their PayPal accounts or bank accounts to make regular, scheduled payments or they can schedule and make one-time payments. SupportPay, similar to 2Houses, keeps track of what has been paid and what is owed at all times, so there is full transparency in this regard as long as both parents are using the program.
In terms of cost, using SupportPay’s basic functions of making and receiving child and spousal support payments, tracking expenses, and storing documents are free. However, free use limits the program’s storage of payment and expense history and limits the use of the program; a user can access a history of up to 6 months, can upload receipts 2 times per month, and can upload other documents one time per month. Full use of SupportPay’s other features, such as the calendar, requires a paid subscription.
4. Soberlink is a patented device that prompts the user to take scheduled breathalyzer tests. The results of these tests are uploaded onto a secure, cloud-based system where healthcare providers, lawyers, spouses, and ex-spouses can view the results.
Soberlink has proven to be an invaluable resource in divorce cases where alcohol abuse is or has been an issue during the marriage. Alcohol testing has routinely been ordered by courts when an allegation of alcoholism is made that impacts the safety of children. This can be a cumbersome process requiring the accused parent to go to a testing center at regular intervals to get tested during regular working hours, and then wait for the results.
With Soberlink, tests can be scheduled at regular intervals and at times that fit the person’s schedule so they are not required to leave work in the middle of the day to get tested. More importantly, the tests can be scheduled at times that directly impact the children; for example, 30 minutes before the parent is scheduled to get behind the wheel to drive the child home. Because the test results are immediately uploaded, Soberlink can be invaluable to avoid dangerous situations.
There are several features of Soberlink that secure the validity of the testing. To avoid allegations that the person who is ordered to use Soberlink did not actually use it (as there is no court officer verifying his or her identity), Soberlink uses facial-recognition technology to validate the person taking the test. Another security feature is the tamper-resistant sensors that are designed to pick up any evidence of individuals attempting to manipulate their breath to cheat the test.
As yet, there is not a comparable home device to monitor marijuana use, but, given advances in technology and the ongoing successful decriminalization of marijuana use, it is likely that such a device will be marketed in the not-so-distant future.
If used consistently and properly, these technologies can ease many of the burdens normally associated with post-divorce life. Imagine no longer having to check your 40-70 page agreement or court order filled with “legalese” to figure out who gets Easter Sunday, or being able to look at your phone instead of texting, emailing, or calling your ex-spouse to find out what time their plane lands after a vacation with your children, or feeling secure that your children are being driven home by a sober parent.
The Benefits of Apps Designed to Fit the Needs of Divorced Parents
A significant benefit of these apps is that they provide accurate records that are admissible in court, be it payment records, messages, calendar change requests, or accurate alcohol testing. Some apps track when each party logs onto the app, posts a request for payment, makes payments, and various other activities that can be provided to lawyers and the court without having to get bank records or battle out the dreaded “he-said-she-said” in divorce cases.
Divorces can be incredibly contentious, and frequently, the tension between the parties arises from the need to communicate with one another about day-to-day parenting issues such as schedules, expenses, and holidays, and from the fear for the children’s safety that is inherent when a parent has or has had, an alcohol problem.
These apps can provide an immeasurable amount of relief for those dealing with divorce and child custody issues and can avoid issues at a cost that is far lower than paying an attorney to do so.
Shivani S. Grillo is a matrimonial & family lawyer at Rower, LLC. She brings expertise in high-conflict custody cases and advocating on behalf of those in crisis, and she serves as guardian ad litem for at-risk children in high-conflict custody matters. Shivani began her career as law fellow with the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, a non-profit organization that represents low-income victims of domestic violence pro bono. www.rowerllc.com