Managing the logistics of parenting is hard enough when you share a house with your partner, and it gets even more complicated when you and your co-parent live separately. From birthday parties to swim meets, school events, babysitters, and budgets, there are so many details to keep track of, and so many forums on which to communicate: you might get an email about your nanny, a text about drop off time, and a DM of a "funny" meme from your co-parent. It's all too easy for super important details to get lost. Fortunately, these apps help co-parents communicate clearly and with little room for miscommunications.
A 2015 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that "41 percent of all births in the U.S. occur to unmarried parents", and that approximately two-thirds of these couples will be living separately by the time the child turns five. This stat, coupled with the divorce rate, means that there are many families operating in a co-parenting situation.
The use of an app is not a magic wand that will allow you to never again lose your temper at your co-parent again, but it may make your life just a little bit easier and a little less stressful, so you can both enjoy the time you spend with your kids.
Three-time winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards, Cozi is an app that will simplify your family life regardless of your living situation. I downloaded this to get a sense of the app before writing, and I can already tell it’s going to become a staple in my fiance’s life and mine; I particularly love that the calendar can sync with Outlook, Google, and Apple, and we can include our dog in the calendar, because she isn't great at managing her own schedule.
In addition to the calendar, the free version of the app also offers a shared to-do list, an in-app grocery list, and a meal planner. You can ask Alexa to add something directly to your Cozi list, which is perfect when you're trying to get everyone out the door and realize you're missing a refrigerator staple. The Journal function provides an easy way to upload photos. You or your kids can add a photo and write an “entry” depicting what’s going on in the photograph ("Checking out the Butterfly Garden at the Bronx Zoo," for example). If you decide to upgrade to the Gold version for $30 a year, you’ll gain access to a Contacts and Birthdays function, so no one receives an extremely belated card again.
WeParent takes a holistic view of co-parenting and understands that managing daily logistics is infinitely more complicated when you and your co-parent live in different houses and may or may not enjoy speaking to each other. The app helps you manage every part of the process including the custody schedule, events, document sharing, and expenses. WeParent founder, Elena Krasnoperova, has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University and explains that, “in creating our app, I based it on extensive psychological research on the impact of divorce on kids. Our goal is to reduce stress and conflict in divorced parents' relationships, allowing them to focus their energies on what really matters - raising healthy, happy kids.”
2houses, an app used by over 160,000 families in 163 countries, offers a custody calendar that is fully customized to your specific arrangement. For those last minute schedule changes that inevitably pop up, it gives you the option to request a schedule change which can be approved by your co-parent. They also have the option to offer an alternate day or time, which is less likely to result in an argument than a lengthy text conversation.
Finances are stressful for just about every parent (with the possible exception of Kris Jenner) but budgets and expenses can get especially contentious between co-parents. According to their website, “2houses manages shared expenses and continuously displays the balance to ensure equilibrated and healthy accounts.” In addition, the app encodes alimony and has an option to send a picture of a potential purchase (a birthday gift for your child, for example) through the Wishlist feature. Another cool feature is the app’s ability to link an email with more than one family’s account, which makes it a great resource for people who have children with two different co-parents. You can try it for free for 14 days, then it’s $13 a month.
Sometimes it’s nice to share a photo of your kids without your cousin’s friend’s brother’s fourth grade teacher commenting on it. An app like Cluster makes it easy to share those pictures you’d like to keep close to home. You and your co-parent can have an album dedicated to sharing pics of the kids while you’re apart, so it doesn’t feel quite as hard to miss a moment.
5. Talking Parents
Talking Parents is the premier app for co-parents who are having trouble communicating effectively. The app eliminates the confusion that comes from communicating over several platforms and makes it less likely that an important detail will get lost amidst five different social platforms. Talking Parents comes with helpful features like a shared calendar and the ability to upload attachments within the app, but what many co-parents love is that the record of communication is timestamped and unalterable (unlike texts, for example, which can be deleted). You can also see if and when your co-parent has viewed your message, and the record of communication can be shared in legal settings or with meditators, counselors, or attorneys.
AppClose is a free app that has an impressive 4.7 stars in the iTunes store. In addition to a shared calendar, in-app messaging, and expense and reimbursement tracking, AppClose makes it easy to share key information (allergy details, children's measurement, emergency contacts etc.) with the important people in your child's life. Even if certain people aren't app users (we all know that person) you can still track correspondence with them through the app; according to AppClose's website, "When you send a request or event to a non-connected party, that person is then notified with a link to view and respond by approving or declining your request or event. Once the non-connected party responds, you will receive notification and this response will be automatically recorded in the app." This makes it easy to a keep a record of information you've sent regarding "financial obligations, events, or other important information concerning your child."
The name of this app — Parentship— makes me think of rocketing into space, which co-parenting can sometimes feel like. Like all good ships, the app contains a clear dashboard which displays all the days events in one easy-to-see place. You can also securely store important documents both parents will need access to including birth certificates and passports. You can try it free for a month to see how the app works for your family's needs, then it costs $4 a month or $40 annually.