Our Family Wizard

by Annette Burns on December 1, 2012

I can’t say enough good things about Our Family Wizard and its effects on parent communications.  The New York Times recognizes its value too, in its recent Kramer.com v. Kramer.com article.     The concept of joint custody at a distance —- with communications done online, in a respectful and businesslike manner — is a great one that has reduced stress for divorced and nonmarried parents everywhere.  More importantly, if the parents are engaging in less conflict, the children benefit.

I disagree with a few statements in the Times article.  There’s a quote from one Google calendar user who gushes “Everything on our calendar is jointly shared, so there’s no dispute.”     Wish it was that easy, but even the use of joint calendars results in disputes when someone makes a change to the calendar or schedules the children for activities during the other parent’s time.  Simply sharing a calendar isn’t going to resolve basic parenting differences like that.

And one (apparently naive) family attorney states, about phone calls with the children “It’s all set out in detail.  Your phone has to be available at certain hours, and if you don’t follow the rules, it’s a good way to lose custody.”   Lose custody? Well maybe, if the parent missing phone calls can show a dedicated pattern of consciously ignoring court orders.  But a change of custody isn’t a likely remedy for refusal of phone calls.   Financial penalties, some loss of parenting time, or paying for the monitoring of phone calls is a more likely result.

You can’t argue with the fact that if parents stick to online calendars, Our Family Wizard, or email, they increase their chances of communicating effectively, they document what was said and by who and when, and they avoid the in-person exchanges that get so testy (especially in front of the children).

The last paragraph of the article hits the crux of parenting coordinator woes, which is “keyboarded messages can nonetheless get testy. . . . now where is the tehcnology that can solve that?”    Well, Our Family Wizard‘s emailing function includes “ToneMeter“.   “Think of ToneMeter as your emotional spell-check. ToneMeter is new optional add-on that can help you identify and flag emotionally charged sentences within your OurFamilyWizard message. As intuitive as grammar or spell-check, ToneMeter goes beyond sentiment to gauge words and phrases against 8 levels of connotative feeling, allowing the end user to make real-time corrections and adjust the overall tone of messages using an easy-to-use menu system.”

In other words—your computer will tell you, before your message is sent, that the message may not sound great, and will suggest which words or language to change.     Without that assistance from the application, changing the way estranged parents email each other requires input from at least one third party— a judge, a parenting coordinator, an attorney, a therapist.    It requires education and a real desire to LEARN  how to more appropriately write to the other parent, and it requires time.    Unfortunately, who has less free time than a single parent?

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