CCR Column: Communication Help for Separated Parents

by Jennifer Moeller, Door County Family Court Commissioner

Domestic violence, abuse and harassment are present in some families with minor children. A victim and an abuser may have children together. 

If charged with a crime, the abuser/defendant would be subject to bond conditions while the case is pending, and those may include no contact or no violent contact with the alleged victim. Regardless of criminal charges, a victim of abuse may seek a civil injunction or restraining order preventing the abuser from having any contact with her or him. The victim can request no contact with the abuser or limited contact under specific circumstances. 

Even though parents may separate or divorce, their children still have a relationship with both parents, and co-parenting can be stressful for everyone involved. Despite parents and courts trying to create detailed court orders about custody, placement and co-parenting, many parents struggle with communication about all the things that can come up: school, church, medical and dental appointments, sports, musical instruments, holidays, a change in work schedules and many other issues. 

Fortunately, mobile apps are available to assist with the necessary communication between parents and to prevent or limit conflict in families. Here are the most popular of these apps:

Our Family Wizard is the most well known. It allows parents to share information, schedules, expenses and communication in one app, and a family calendar can keep everyone in the loop. The message board records all messages so that they can never be edited, deleted or retracted, which makes users more mindful of what they say. There’s even an optional feature that provides feedback on tone before messages are sent that’s been called an “emotional spell check.” 

Keeping track of expenses and who paid for what can be made simpler by using an app, and all information can be safely stored for both parents. 

Talking Parents is similar to Our Family Wizard. As a helpful safety feature, telephone and video calls can be made without disclosing the number. Other co-parenting apps include 2Houses, coParenter and CoParently. 

Some apps offer a free trial before committing for a longer period. The average cost is roughly $100 per year, which is a bargain compared to the costs involved in returning to court to resolve disputes. Some people also use free apps with fewer features, such as Cozi, a calendar and list-sharing tool; and Google Calendar and Google Sheets.  

Family courts have been ordering parents to use these apps for more than a decade, and parents have been discovering the apps themselves and have agreed to use them without any court requirement to do so. These tools hold both parents accountable for their communication with the other parent and reduce conflict for everyone in the family. 

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.