As the Wall Street Journal reports, divorce brings out the worst in parents already bickering with each other. Even an argument about where a kid is dropped off can end up in court. New high-tech tools to ease this stress is where child custody and technology meet.
There’s an App for that!
Created by divorced parents, divorce and family law attorneys and judges who saw a need to create a better way for families to communicate, these new apps link child custody and technology, and allow parents to document their compliance with the parenting plan.
Some have a check-in feature so parents can prove that they picked up or dropped off their children when and where they were supposed to. Others use artificial intelligence to flag messages written in an aggressive tone, reminding parents to keep their communications civil.
Most have calendars that help both parents keep track of their children’s activities and appointments—no matter whose day it is.
Florida Child Custody
I’ve written on Florida’s child custody issues before. In Florida, a Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor children, even when timesharing is not in dispute.
A “Parenting plan” is a document created by Florida statute to govern the relationship between parents relating to all of the decisions that need to be made about their children.
Parenting plans must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and kids. But there are more issues concerning minor children besides who they spend time with. For example, issue about a child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being are also included in the plan.
If the parties cannot agree to a Parenting Plan, a plan will be established by the court. If the plan is approved by the court, it must, at a minimum, describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies to communicate with the child.
Because of Florida’s express embrace of technology in parenting plans, it is no surprise these child custody and technology apps for parents are increasingly included. So, what are they?
Candis Lewis, a mother of three who lives on a military said the Talking Parents app she was ordered to use eliminated the stress of arguing over whether a text message or email was received. All messages in the app are time-stamped and show exactly when the other parent read them.
When they were married, Amy and Jason Cooper began using a family-management app called Cozi, which features a calendar and shopping lists. They stuck with it after they began divorce proceedings, finding it aided their ability to manage their two children.
Yaquiline Zarate has been using the coParenter app to improve communication with the father of her son. The app allows them to seek real-time professional mediation when parenting conflicts arise.
The app, co-created by a retired judge, allows parents to text family-law professionals to mediate conflicts, rather than go to court. Earlier this year, when it was her ex-boyfriend’s night to take their son out for a visit, she urged him to let the boy stay home with her because he was sick and it was cold. The father didn’t agree, she said, so he tapped the “get help” button in the app. A mediator convinced him that it was in the boy’s best interest to stay put that night.
High Tech Problems & Solutions
Some parents like the fact that they can silo all communications with their ex. It’s better than having a message pop up in their regular inbox when they’re unprepared to deal with it.
When you get an email from the other side, you want to throw up. Whenever I get an email from my ex I assume the worst and this way I can leave it in the app and look at it when I’m ready. If it comes to my inbox, it can ruin my day.
The apps aren’t a panacea. Stephen admits he doesn’t always respond to the messages his ex sends him in the app. “The court order says we have to use OurFamilyWizard to communicate, but it doesn’t say we have to communicate.”
Whatever the drawbacks, there’s evidence that these apps connecting child custody and technology help the people who need it most: the children themselves.
The Wall Street Journal article is here.