For many parents, getting ready for custody mediation is stressful and cumbersome.
A good co-parenting app upends this situation; it helps parents feel focused and organized heading into discussions.
The five best co-parenting apps all let you:
Create a custody calendar you can propose in mediation.
Store digital files that support negotiations, such as work schedules or court documents.
Collaborate on the calendar and files with your co-parent, if they have an account.
Message your co-parent and print messages relevant to disputed issues.
Given this, the dilemma often isn’t why co-parents should use an app but which one they should use.
Together with a family lawyer, I started a co-parenting app that my team and I have continued to enhance for nearly 20 years. I know the top apps well, and I understand that each one has unique benefits.
Having children myself, I enjoy helping parents find the option that sets their family up for the most success. So here’s my honest take on the best apps to use before custody mediation, depending on what your situation is.
When you need to document phone calls: Talking Parents
When a premium subscriber calls their co-parent through Talking Parents, the app records and transcribes the conversation.
Printing this transcript is an easy way to inform a mediator — and remind a co-parent — of what parents have already discussed. It can cut down on time spent recapping or rehashing in your sessions.
You can download Talking Parents from major app stores, then upgrade to the premium subscription for $19.99 a month. You can also purchase text message notifications or additional calling minutes.
When you’re drafting a parenting plan: Custody X Change
Custody X Change (which I co-founded) walks you through the steps of creating a parenting plan. It lets you choose from common provisions to include (e.g., Neither parent will unreasonably question the child about the other parent.) and write your own provisions.
When you arrive at mediation with a proposed parenting plan, you save time in negotiations and feel confident in your requests.
Custody X Change also calculates planned parenting time, which can help parents agree on a custody schedule, and it tracks actual parenting time, which is helpful if you return to mediation later.
It’s a web-based app, so you install it directly from the Custody X Change website. Subscriptions start at $97 a year, with monthly payments available.
When you need a discount: Our Family Wizard
Our Family Wizard has been around a long time, so your mediator may be familiar with it. But perhaps an even bigger advantage of Our Family Wizard is that it offers discounts for military parents and parents who prove financial need.
Military parents receive a buy-one-get-one-free deal to use with their co-parent. Parents showing financial need get a one-year subscription at a discount or for free.
Our Family Wizard is in app stores and starts at $99 a year, with more expensive packages also available. You can pay extra to add features.
When your co-parent won’t pay for an account: We Parent
When one parent pays for a We Parent account, the other gets an account for free. This can encourage a hesitant co-parent to use an app.
Getting parents to use an app together is always ideal — it fosters cooperation and can help them agree more quickly when they go to mediation.
Download We Parent from your app store. Subscriptions are $9.99 per month, $99.99 per year or $199.99 for a lifetime.
Keep in mind that We Parent doesn’t have as many features as other co-parenting apps. For instance, it doesn’t include a parenting journal or a dedicated space to share your child’s information (e.g., account numbers, clothing sizes), which the apps above do.
When you’re not ready to commit: Coparently
Coparently is technically a website, not an app. Regardless, it’s the only co-parenting tool on this list currently offering a 30-day free trial. (The others listed here give either a 30-day money-back guarantee or a 14-day trial.)
Coparently’s trial doesn’t even require credit card information, so it’s great for the commitment-wary parent.
If you like what you see during the trial, you can sign up at $9.99 a month or $99 a year.
Although the tool lacks a parenting journal and child-information center (like We Parent does), it lets you track expenses (as do Custody X Change and Our Family Wizard).
Ben Coltrin was 21 years old when he quit his job to create the Custody X Change software, which helps parents track their custody schedules, create parenting plans, keep tabs on their child's expenses, and more.
Nearly 20 years later, he loves sharing his child custody knowledge and improving the software because both positively impact real people's lives.
Ben has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a computer science degree from California State University, Sacramento. He lives with his wife and four children in Riverton, Utah.