Since I talk about my co-parenting situation, I wanted to mention that we use Our Family Wizard. It has been a very useful tool for communication and documentation. Let me give you a run down if it’s best and worst features!
OFW was suggested to us by my husband’s attorney, and was added into his court order as the required method of communication. Unfortunately, I did not get it included in my current order. Our Family Wizard is becoming a very common communication tool for co-parenting. Many of the features are useful even for parents that do not struggle with communicating peacefully.
If you are considering using OFW, know that it is best accessed from a computer. When using a computer, you get the full experience, but you can access many features from the app on your phone. There is definitely room for improvement, but the benefits outweigh the missing features.
For us, the best feature of OFW is that parents can create accounts for professionals, like attorneys or therapist, and nonprofessionals, like family or care providers. OFW really centralizes information for everyone involved with the co-parenting situation. So let’s talk a little more about the four account types and their features.
OFW has three subscription options. Essentially you choose between a 1 or 2 year plan, with or without the ToneMeter, and with 5 or 10 GB of storage. The price range is $99 for the choose your own plan, 119.97 for the 1 year subscription, and $209.97 for the 2 year subscription. They offer a scholarship program and a military discount to help make this app more affordable. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee.
For parents OFW is broken down into several user friendly tabs.
- Home Page
- Message Board
- Expense Log
- My Files
- Info Bank
The home page gives you quick access to the most used features. It displays your most recent messages.
The message board is exactly what it sounds like. This is where you will receive system messages, which are notices about tasks the other parent has performed on the account. Some examples are: parent A has sent a trade request, parent B had removed a third party account, or Parent A has rejected an expense request. It is designed exactly like your email, and is a great way to communicate without sharing your personal email. The message board utilizes the ToneMeter, which checks the content tone to assist you in eliminating inflammatory messages. This feature is available from the app and the website.
The calendar allows you to request trade/swap days, set a parenting schedule, add activities, set holidays, and make journal entries. Think of it like your online planner. It’s great that you can access this from the app and the website . However, the trade/swap feature is displayed differently from the website, and I personally believe that accessing this feature is better from the website than the app.
The expense Log allows you to submit expenses and request reimbursement. You choose the expense type and the percentage of reimbursement. Then you have the choice of attaching a receipt. The other parent can accept or reject the expense. You can mark expenses as reimbursed once payment is received. To simplify things even further, you can pay expenses through the OFWPay. This feature is also available from both the app and website.
The My Files feature saves any attachments in your messages and color codes them so you know what documents were sent by you or the other parent. You can also upload separate files and choose to set them as shareable or private. This feature is only viewable from the website.
The Info Bank is available from the app and website, and allows you to share contacts, medical information, the child’s clothing sizes, school information, insurance information, and more. It’s basically like a contact book.
The account tab is all your account information. Your login details, your stored payment information, and third party accounts. You can also view account holders login history. This is also where you manage third party accounts.
Child accounts are similar to third party accounts because they have limited access. Their account gives them to access the calendar, journal, and message board. This allows them to keep track of important dates, make journal entries, and send messages to family. Having limited access means they are left out of the grown up conversations.
Third Party Accounts
Third Party accounts are similar to third party accounts also have limited access. You can only access this account from the website. This account type provides access to the calendar, journal, and message board. This allows account holders to keep track of important dates, make journal entries, and send messages.
Professionals can select parents from the family account, then select from which parent’s viewpoint they’d like to see activity. According to the OFW website: “Professional Access allows practitioners to review client information without altering existing records such as parent sign in histories. Viewing permissions with this feature are based on whether a practitioner has access to one parent in a family or both.”
- centralizes all information
- date/time stamps all entries
- all documents are admissible in court
- provides easy access of information to family and professionals
- because it is so well organized it can lower legal expenses
- helps to keep account holder’s information private (i.e. email address, phone number etc.)
- aids in managing high conflict co-parenting
- is accessible on mobile devices
- easy to use
What Could Be Better
- Both parents can remove child/third party accounts. This may be done out of hostility. Account management would be better if only the creator had access to remove a child/third party account.
- The feature to request a receipt on expenses, where none was attached, was removed.
- Child/Third Party accounts can’t attach documents to messages.
- Parents don’t get to choose which features Third Party accounts have access to.
- Organization of Journal Entries can be confusing on the printed version.
- To print individual documents (messages, journal entries, calendar events etc.) is a complicated process.
Why It Works For Us
Using Our Family Wizard just made sense for us. It has been a great way of keeping track of everything for everyday life and court purposes. Before it was stipulated in the court order that all communication would be through OFW, information was scattered. There was no consistency in the method of communication. Before using OFW photos, text messages, emails etc. has to be gathered for documentation, and stored physically and electronically. Now everything is in one central place and stored in an account that is accessible from anywhere.
It helps us to eliminate unnecessary communication, and in creating messages that potentially will be accepted without hostility. It also keeps our email, text messages, and voicemail private and free of harassing communication. OFW time stamps everything so there is no disputing when information was provided to account holders. It hasn’t been a magic way of fixing the situation, but it goes a long way in making co-parenting simpler.