A range of smartphone apps are helping separated couples to seamlessly co-parent their children.
Gill Ruidant founded the app 2houses in 2011 after struggling to have productive conversations about childcare with his ex when they divorced nine years ago. He says the app is now used by 100,000 families so far.
“I quickly noticed that direct and phone conversations were generating conflict,” he told The Independent. “For the well-being of our son, my ex and I were looking for a go-between to help us organising the custody calendar, keep track of shared expenses and share school and medical information. We tested a few existing tools, were not very satisfied as it was not focused on our specific needs, as separated parents.
Ruidant soon quit his job and launched the app and website with the aim of “removing the negative part of the emotion and help divorced parents to communicate about their kids in a neutral environment”.
Flavia Fraser-Cannon relies on the trusty Google calendar app to co-parent her three-year-old son with her ex-partner. The couple drew up a fortnightly schedule to split custody equally the morning they split up and have stuck to it ever since.
“We are both theatre PRs and sometimes have to swap and change sessions to cover press night, for example,” she told The Independent. “An app like Google calendar gives us flexibility to reference and update on the hoof (we have a deal that the only person who updates it once a change is agreed is me so as not to confuse things). We colour code to make it super clear at a glance, it's pretty straightforward to do.”
Fraser-Cannon, who also communicates with her ex through WhatsApp when discussing pick-ups and drop-offs and sharing images, says she imagines co-parenting to be “nightmarish” without the help of their calendar app.
“I would expect lots of crossed communication, potential for paper diaries or personal diaries not getting updated as hands were full at the point of agreed change for instance. Our child could easily end up not collected from nursery or other stressful situations,” she says. “Our current system gives us both the opportunity to live our own lives also, see friends, see shows, date etc. I really feel we have the best of both worlds and the calendar gives opportunity for that to run smoothly. There again we never did co-parenting without it.”
Kate Daly is another businessperson who branched into the world of apps following her own “traumatic” divorce, it launched just before Christmas and is now used by people in 23 countries. The focus, and name, of the app is on amicable separations and looking out for the child’s best interests which came about after working as a family consultant she realised, along with her own experience, “there had to be a better, less expensive way to sort things out”.
“We have designed our free app to help parents separate without conflict,” she says. It starts by users building a family profile and then creating a parenting plan.
“We help them focus on what’s really important and start with the big questions like, ‘What do our kids need to thrive and be happy?” rather than, ‘When will I get to see my kids?’”
The app allows users to communicate with each other, share photos and upload important documents like schedules.
“There are safeguarding statements and ground rules to protect vulnerable parents too and we are developing the next phase of functionality and constantly looking to enhance the content,” she says. “We have pre-populated the app with all the important decisions you need to make about parenting so all you have to do is click and swipe suggestions across.”
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