Will a parenting app help our communication?

Posted on Mar 22, 2024 by Katie Carter

Navigating a new coparenting relationship is challenging, even under the best of circumstances.  Most breakups, though, aren’t the best of circumstances.

Or maybe – and this is entirely possible – I just have a poor sampling.

I do think that’s something you (and probably I) should always consider.  When I speak (or write), I’m thinking of the few cases where these particular issues have posed problems.  Sometimes, I literally write an entire blog because of ONE case I’ve seen.  (Don’t worry, though: I won’t call anybody out.)

Not only that, but lawyers, in general, deal in worst case scenarios.  The ones that mean that we have to go to court or where negotiations suddenly go sideways.  That’s actually where lawyers shine.  That’s what I spend all day, 40 or more hours a week, dealing with and/or thinking about.  So, keep that in mind.  Perspective.

But also, if you’re struggling to transition into your new coparenting arrangement, you’re not alone.  Heck, I know I’d struggle!  Those are my kids!  I can’t imagine anything more emotionally difficult than navigating big changes where your kids are concerned.

For so many of us – women, I mean – we’ve been the default parent from the word go, and handling all of the mental load that comes with it.  We know the kids likes and dislikes, their teachers and pediatricians, their allergies and current medications, the kind of mom we want to be, and on and on and on.  So much of how we raise our children is deeply personal and intensely important to us and it’s hard to find that your influence is being diminished, your time being restricted, or someone else having an opposite viewpoint taking a more central role (especially if he hadn’t, prior to this).

It’s still reality for many women who find themselves navigating a divorce (or breakup) when they have children in common.  Though it’s not legally required in Virginia, many courts default to a more shared custody arrangement than ever before.  Keep in mind, though: shared custody isn’t necessarily or even automatically 50/50.  We do see week on/week off arrangements, or 4-3-3-4 ones, but shared custody is any parenting plan where the non custodial parent (the parent who has the child less) has 90 or more days in a calendar year.

As you can probably imagine, there is a great deal of difference between having 90 days and meeting the bare minimum to count as shared physical custody and having a full 182.5 days, the number that you would need to meet to share the year exactly in half.

Communication is a challenge in almost every case.  Moms are accused of gatekeeping; dads expect moms to bend over backwards making shared parenting time not only do-able but positively easy for them.  (Hey, dads: 50/50 means 50% of the mental load, too!  READ THE ROOM!)

In a lot of cases, we recommend a shared parenting app to manage communication.  It’s not just that an app makes communication easier – because you’re supposed to communicate with each other across just ONE platform, rather than navigating the challenges associated with alternately using text, email, and phone calls to get your messages across – but there are a host of other benefits, too.  There are a number of different coparenting apps; some free, some for a fee.

There are also a number of different features that can be included in memberships at different levels, depending on the types of challenges you need to address in your particular case.  Do you need to be able to upload and share documents – report cards, school picture information, birthday party invitations, practice schedules, tests and reports, etc – back and forth?  Do you need a shared calendar?  You could have a synced one on your phone, of course, but maybe having it available on the app makes it easier.  (Or less likely that, somehow, you’ll sync a personal event to the shared calendar that you maybe didn’t intend to share with him.  You’re breaking up, after all; it’s not like he needs MORE information about your solo time!)

Maybe you need help actually communicating, and you need attorneys – or even your Guardian ad litem – available to read and monitor your communication.

Whatever you need, there’s a parenting app to provide it. None of them are perfect, but there are a number of different options out there if you’re looking for a way to streamline the way you and your ex deal with each other or share coparenting responsibilities.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ in custody and visitation, so you are going to have to try to figure out, through trial and error, what works best for you and your family.  In more high conflict cases, a parallel parenting approach often works best.  Incidentally, in these types of cases, I’d also recommend an app to minimize and centralize communication.

Often, especially in high conflict cases, I find that communication quickly stops being productive and starts being abusive.  There should be a limit to the amount of abuse that any former partner has to endure and an app can help send the message (both because there are third parties, like attorneys and GALs often involved on the app) that too many messages are not going to get him what he wants.

A well-drafted custody agreement is also going to be important, including specific provisions designed to address the problems that you have come across (or that, based on your experience, you expect to come across).  Sometimes, I even put in that coparents will only be expected to review and respond to messages at certain pre-determined times.  By making sure messaging takes place on the app – and that there are predetermined times where each coparent can check and/or respond – it takes all of that harassment off of each coparent’s personal device.

The goal, ultimately, is to help both of you forge a relationship that would mean that you don’t NEED to communicate on an app.  I think that a custody agreement can go a long way towards helping you meet the goal, in the sense that then you both have a realistic picture of what you can expect.  Also, knowing what to expect and then, over the long term, having those expectations actually met, can go a long way towards re-establishing trust even in a pretty severely fractured relationship.

If you do it right now, over time, you may find that you can (1) put your agreement in a drawer and stop referencing it, and/or (2) coparent more cooperatively.  Even if you can’t, it still provides a framework you can rely on and a specific mode of communication.  You can always use it to help smooth the way.

Maybe it’ll never be truly smooth sailing.  Maybe you can make it considerably better.  Either way, a coparenting app may aid in those goals.  After all, life really never gets easier!  As soon as you address one challenge, something else happens.

For more information, to request a copy of our custody book for Virginia moms, or to register to attend an upcoming custody seminar, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.