Co-parenting can be overwhelming, or even toxic. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Co-parenting apps can simplify scheduling, keep everyone on track. The right app might even make co-parenting communication, schedules, activities and contacts easier and more effective.
Some single moms and dads use apps because a lawyer, judge or mediator mandated them to. But even with amicable divoces, co-parenting apps can be a great way to communicate, stay organized and have a better relationship with your child’s other parent.
A co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard will help you keep track of important appointments, document kid drop-off/pick-up, tally expenses, show proof of payment, compliance and non-compliance, and share information and photos about the children's days. In the event that you must submit records to a judge, mediator or attorney, Our Family Wizard allows you to download submissible records.
The more confident you feel as co-parents, the more you can focus on your shared responsibility: those kids you made together. And as your co-parenting communication improves, so should your relationship with your ex – which ultimately is great for your children. Technology of a co-parenting app can help.
Here’s what you need to know about co-parenting apps, including a list of some of my favorites.
What is a co-parenting app?
Co-parenting apps help you and your ex juggle the craziness that is parenthood:
- Shared parenting schedule, including vacation and summer schedules
- Contacts for babysitters, grandparents, friends, the pediatrician, nanny, etc.
- Extracurricular and random appointments, including dentist appointments, school functions, sleepovers, music lessons, soccer games, parent-teacher conferences
Most co-parenting apps are mobile-based, although some rely on website-based versions.
Co-parenting app features
Apps vary, of course. But some features are fairly universal.
Co-parent and shared parenting plans
Some couples set up a parenting plan through their lawyers, and some create their own. Depending on how your separation and divorce shook down, you might be required to have regular check-ins with your ex, or even to take co-parenting classes.
Whether you share 50-50 parenting time, or a 3-3-4-4 days, 2-2-5-5, 2-2-3 days, or the old every-other-weekend special, you can plug these parenting schedules into any of the co-parenting apps.
Often, a judge will mandate you use a co-parenting app to work with your ex, including using one like Our Family Wizard that allows you to create a PDF of text exchanges, a record of on-time or missed visitations and expense sharing.
Co-parent and shared parenting schedules
Once your plans are in the app everything will be easy, right? Riiiight. Life happens, and sometimes the unexpected, or honest miscommunication wrecks your carefully organized co-parenting schedules.
The co-parenting app makes it easier to plan and adjust. Suppose your ex’s 20th high school reunion is announced. You check the app and sure enough, he’ll have the kids that weekend. Plenty of time for the two of you to arrange a trade.
Or maybe you have to head to an industry conference in three months. As soon as you have the dates, check the app to see if you need to switch days with your ex. Many co-parenting apps have a function within the calendar to request for a swap or trade, with the times of request and response being documented for future references.
Drop-off and pick-up times, field trips, music lessons, the school play – goof-ups are a lot less likely when everything’s in one place. Even the most well-intentioned parent sometimes flakes out on a PTA meeting. When it’s on the shared calendar, you and your ex can either negotiate who has to go this time, or agree to attend together.
The calendars can often be synced with personal calendars like iCal or Google Calendar. Generally, they can be shared with other people, too. That way, Grandma won’t miss the piano recital, and your babysitter will know what nights your ex will be picking up the children.
You can share the calendar with your kids, too.
If you’re still feeling raw about the split it can be hard even to look at your ex, let along talk with them. Yet you know it’s best for the kids if their parents get along.
Can’t talk in person without wanting to cry or rage? The app lets you say what needs to be said, such as “Parent-teacher conferences are coming up” or “The kids need flu shots.”
But don't stop there. Try actual communication. For example, you could message, “Do you think our son is ready for sleepaway camp?” After all, your ex should have a say.
And if you’re making a serious effort to be the best co-parent ever, send a well-done-you! note: “Glad you took the kids sledding – they can’t stop talking about how much fun it was.” OurFamilyWizard allows you to share a pic
These kinds of messages will get you in the habit of talking to your ex. They’ll also remind you that you’re no longer a couple but you are co-parents.
How to use a co-parenting app
Whether you are using a co-parenting app by choice, the recommendation of your lawyer, or a court mandate, the same rules apply:
Co-parenting app tips
Using an app for co-parent communication is not just to comply with a custody agreement, but to actually get along with your ex — or at least to model respectful adult behavior for your kids, and minimize drama and conflict. Separation and divorce are tough, even if you were the one who initiated the split. Sometimes even basic, necessary communication feels like walking through a minefield.
1. Be consistent. Do not use your iPhone’s text function. Stick to always communicating with your co-parent within the app. Likewise with scheduling: Do not send your ex a calendar invite to change the schedule from your iCalendar, but use the agreed-upon co-parenting app’s functions. Make a habit of always documenting any child expenses immediately, including taking photos of receipts.
2. If you use an app like Our Family Wizard with a vault feature, scan and store important information like:
- Birth certificate
- Passport (and, if need be, a letter authorizing you to travel abroad with the kids)
- Information on allergies or dietary issues/restrictions and any medications your children take
- Insurance card
3. Be as helpful as you can and fill out contact information for people like coaches, doctors, teachers, school administrators, kids’ friends’ parents, babysitters and others — even if your co-parent does no reciprocate or thank you.
4. Do not add other people to the app without consulting with your other parent. For example, if you’d like to add your mom to the app to help with child care, but your ex and your mom have an ugly history, check with him first. Likewise, be practical and forgiving with your ex’s requests.
5. Use the co-parenting app as a neutral tool — not a weapon. While most co-parenting apps allow you to download and export time-stamped communication, calendar and expense histories for court submission, do not threaten your ex with these consequences. Instead, focus on the benefits of using an app to reduce conflict, confusion and misunderstandings. Similarly, if things do get ugly, the facts will be on your side with minimum conflict.
6. Respect your ex as an equal parent who’s just as responsible for your kids as you are. In other words, treat them the way you want to be treated: by staying in touch, and by sharing need-to-know info (“Kiddo had a fight with her best friend, so she might be feeling sad”). More tips and rules for positive co-parenting in this post.
7. Be nice. OurFamilyWizard's ToneMeter is a unique tool that points out that a text you just wrote (but have yet to send) may be nastier than you intended. Even if you are not using an app, keep language and tone neutral or positive. “Kids are due back at 7 o’clock – don’t be late again, dickhead,” should give way to, “See you guys at 7.”
Better yet, by using a co-parenting app consistently, you will no longer need to remind each other of schedules or appointments since you will each be accustomed to referencing the shared calendar first.
Best co-parenting apps
Search for “co-parenting apps” on GooglePlay or iTunes and you’ll be instantly overwhelmed. I’ve narrowed the field for you …
One of the first co-parenting apps, OurFamilyWizard lets you and your ex keep financial records, store and share info (“New babysitter’s number is…”), and contribute to an online diary. Its “message board” function lets you and your ex chat about the kids and keep each other up to date (“Leaving the birthday party now, will have Sadie back to you within half an hour”).
OurFamilyWizard has a tool called ToneMeter that can help improve co-parenting communication. The ToneMeter scans your texts as you write them, and points out “emotionally charge phrases” so that you can think – and maybe rewrite – before you send a message. Sorta a babysitter for the parents.
Once you sign up and login, OurFamilyWizard will give a monthly overview of co-parenting, including money spent (or reimbursed), number of messages sent/received and the percentage of time the kids were with you.
Available for Apple and Android, OurFamilyWizard has a 2.2 rating on Googe Play and a 2.0 rating on iTunes.
Our Family Wizard costs $99 per year, per parent, and has a 30-day free trial. Babysitters, kids and grandparents can be added for free. Our Family Wizard offers discounts for military families, and a fee waiver to offer Our Family Wizard free for low-income parents. Each parent can also add unlimited numbers of add-ons, including kids, grandparents, bonus / step parents, as well as attorneys and mediators.
Check out Our Family Wizard now >>
Or, read our review of OurFamilyWizard.
This one’s a hybrid: TakingParents is a co-parenting communications tool that has a free website version (where you will see ads), as well as a paid version for Apple and Android apps.
Both free and paid versions have messaging, a shared calendar and personal journal. The paid app also has features like file storage and unlimited downloads for conversations and journal records — which you may want or need for court appearances or mediation with your attorney.
The paid version costs $5.99 per month, but add-ons like downloads of messages, calendar or expenses start at $9.99 each — with certified versions costing $39.99, plus 19 cents per page. Depending on your needs, TalkingParents may be more expensive than OurFamilyWizard or Fayr.
TalkingParents has a 3.2 rating on Google Play and a 4.4 rating on iTunes.
AppClose — totally free
Available for Apple and Android, AppClose is the only completely free co-parenting app in this list. Often billed as an alternative to OurFamilyWizard, AppClose has been around a long time and reports tens of thousands of users.
Along with features like messaging, shared calendars and the ability to create a shared parenting plan, AppClose has its own built-in payment platform, “ipayou,” with an integrated expense tracke. You or your ex can scan in receipts and request reimbursement, and then settle up electronically.
AppClose allows you to export (for free) all communication and calenders.
Messaging is done by text within the app, which you can do with your co-parent, alone or in a group chat with other family members or caretakers you can add (also for free). The messages are time- and date-stamped. Another feature, AppClose Solo, lets you send notes to people who aren’t connected through the app, through text, e-mail or social media.
AppClose is indeed totally free, but users report the calendar is not user-friendly, and overall user experience is poor compared to paid competitors.
AppClose has a 3.6 rating on Google Play and a 4.7 rating on iTunes.
This app has the expected features, such as a shared calendar, document library and check-in records. However, coParenter has something unique: a team of child specialists, mediators, therapists and retired judges on hand, ready to provide conflict resolution help in real-time. You can also ask for co-parenting coaching with any issues, and tips on effective co-parenting communication.
CoParenter costs $12.99 per month or $119.99 per year for one parent, or $199.99 per year for two parents. It has a 3.3 rating on Google Play and a 3.9 rating on iTunes.
The 2Houses app has the usual features, such as a shareable calendar, expense tracking, messaging and document storage.
If you’ve got kids with more than one ex, the website version of 2Houses lets you set up different “families” on the same account. And if an ex isn’t interested in joining the platform, you can invite a step-parent or other relative to step up.
2Houses costs $149.99 per year total, for both parents, and has a 14-day free trial. It has a 2.9 rating on both Google Play and iTunes.
If you and your ex are having trouble getting along, consider co-parent counseling. This is just what it sounds like: getting a trained therapist to help the two of you become the best parents you can be.
This is great for your kids, obviously. But it's also good for the two of you. Life is too short to hang on to anger, or to grief. Counseling can help you move on.
Online therapy is an option
Technology can save you here, too. Counseling via phone, video, e-mail or text is much less expensive than in-person therapy, which might be a great fit for your single-mom budget.
Bonus: If you can’t stand to be in the same room with your ex for more than five minutes without wanting to cry (or scream), you don’t have to be.
A popular online therapy platform BetterHelp can set you and your ex up with one of the thousands of listed certified and licensed therapists. BetterHelp has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and prices start at $40/week for unlimited text, phone, video or email therapy. Get started with a free, 7-day trail at BetterHelp now >>
Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker,” her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.