The Best Co-Parenting Apps for Healthy Communication
Sharing the duties and responsibilities of parenting with someone outside the home—whether it be your ex-partner or a platonic co-parent—can be a minefield. For some parents a shared calendar is all that’s needed to keep track of fast-paced family life. But if you find that minor communication issues or scheduling conflicts are escalating into major disputes, a co-parenting app can help.
Co-parenting apps allow you to navigate a busy schedule, upload key information, share important documents about your child and even split costs evenly, so one parent isn’t left out of pocket. While they’re mostly used for platonic co-parents or ex-partners, these apps can also come in handy if one parent lives or works in another state or overseas, but still wants to keep abreast of their child’s schedule. To help you find the right co-parenting app for your family’s needs, we’ve consulted an expert and created a list of the best apps on the market right now—some of which are free to use.
A co-parenting app is a digital platform that allows users to communicate, share schedules, keep track of key documents and more. Typically, these apps have a time-stamped messaging platform, a shared calendar and expense tools to help you track receipts and split essential costs for your kids.
Co-parenting apps offer a host of benefits when used appropriately. The apps can be used as a tool to improve communication and decrease the tension that may exist between divorced or separated parents. “In instances where one parent doesn’t want to talk to the other or they choose to relay messages through the children, for example, they can often find their conflict escalating and negatively impacting their children,” explains Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, a marriage and family counselor and founder of Take Root Therapy. According to Lurie, co-parenting apps can act as a mediator allowing for fewer miscommunications between parents and a shared, neutral space in which to speak to each other.
Even for former partners that are on good terms, a co-parenting app can come in clutch. Scheduling features can help you plan pick-up and drop-off times, coordinate activities or medical appointments and help both parties stay well-informed about their children’s plans. Expense tracking features also ensure fairness and accountability in meeting financial obligations. And Lurie points out that some co-parenting apps have tools to create a parenting plan, which allows for the development of a system that works for all parties.
For the most part co-parenting apps are used on a voluntary basis. However, in some cases courts mandate the use of co-parenting apps as part of a custody or parenting plan to help facilitate effective communication and reduce conflicts between divorced or separated parents, explains Lurie.
Below find a few key factors to consider before you sign-up to a co-parenting app:
- User-friendly interface. First things first, find a co-parenting app that’s intuitive and easy to use. Like any piece of software, if it’s overly complicated to set-up or difficult to navigate you simply won’t use it.
- Key features. Make sure the app in question has all the features you need. This may include some or all of the following: shared calendar, expense tracker, messenger, family plan templates and online mediation tools.
- App reviews. According to Lurie, it’s important to consider the reviews of other users and the opinions of other co-parents before committing to anything. With this in mind take a look at the co-parenting app’s reviews on the Apple Store or Google Play.
- Cost. While there are free options available, most co-parenting apps operate on a paid subscription model so consider the cost before you sign up. “If possible, look for an app that offers a free trial of some kind, that way you can essentially test drive the app and see if it works for your lifestyles before committing,” says Lurie.
- Security. A co-parenting app is used to communicate about sensitive topics like finances and your child’s schedule, so security is paramount. Check the security features before you sign up and make sure to download the most recent version from a reputable app store.
Now that we’ve gotten to grips with what a co-parenting app is actually for it’s time to take a closer look at the best options available.
First up on our list of the best co-parenting apps is My Family Wizard. Pegged as the number one co-parenting app, it’s accepted by courts in all 50 states and offers all the tech features you would expect (and more). A shared calendar lets you view which parent has the kids on what day, events are color-coded with notes on who’s doing pick-up and drop-off and holidays are marked with a star. Need to adjust the schedule? Avoid getting into a heated back-and-forth by sending a calendar change request. Your co-parent can simply accept or reject it. The app also has a messenger tool that streamlines communication. Once sent, messages can’t be deleted or edited and each one is dated and time-stamped to create a tamper-proof record of your conversations. Ready for the real standout feature? The ToneMeter analyzes your writing and alerts you when your tone is likely to cause conflict, giving you a chance to rephrase (optional, of course). Co-parents can also log expenses, upload receipts and make payments in-app to reduce financial tension and stress. Finally you can store important documents, prescriptions, emergency contact details and more in the “info bank” section and use the journal feature to share special moments and photos with your co-parent. Seriously, is there anything this co-parenting app can’t do? The app offers an essentials or premium plan, both of which are billed annually. Although Our Family Wizard doesn’t offer a free trial you can try the app risk-free, and if you’re not satisfied you’ll receive a full refund within the first 30 days of your plan.
- Option to pay expenses in-app
- Free child, third-party and professional accounts
- It can be time-consuming to use
- Some features are behind a premium paywall
Finances can be a huge cause of tension in co-parenting relationships, but Onward is here to help. The financial planning platform helps eliminate stressful conversations around money by automating the process. Confused? Allow us to explain. With Onward you can upload receipts, enter shared expenses and then send an invoice to your co-parent to get paid back. You can send one invoice a week or submit one a month. With a few clicks your co-parent can pay you back using apps such as Venmo, PayPal, Zelle or CashApp. And because finances can be fraught with conflict you can copy a third party, like a lawyer, on the email. Onward also keeps a timeline of paid and unpaid transactions that's easy to print off for court if necessary. Plus, you can download reports on how much both parties have spent on each child per month.
- Onward offers a free 14-day trial
- Tracks payments and expenses
- Split expenses by a percentage or dollar amount
- Payments can only be made through a third-party app
- Onward doesn’t have a messenger or scheduling feature
Custody X Change has a range of tools to help co-parents draft and navigate a parenting plan. A parenting plan—also known as a custody agreement—outlines how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your child after a separation or divorce. Custody X Change has a range of step-by-step templates to help co-parents draft a parenting plan, which can then be court-documented at a later date. To inform your plan you can create a shared calendar that’s color-coded so you can see which parent has custody day by day. Your calendar feeds into a parenting time report that shows how your child’s time is split between co-parents. This helps create an ideal schedule that works for both parties and can be instrumental in negotiations, hearings and child support calculations. Custody X Change also hosts a parent-to-parent communication system that detects hostile language, giving you the opportunity to rephrase messages and avoid any drama. This app operates on a two-tier system: and is available to both parents and legal professionals. Try it free for 30 days and then opt for monthly or annual billing
- Comprehensive parent plan templates
- Shared calendar displays custody split by percentage
- Evidence organizer lets you track expenses, record journal entries and more
- More complex than other co-parenting apps
- App is only available for download from the Custody X Change website
Cozi wasn’t specifically designed for co-parents, but it’s a great scheduling tool for all family structures. A shared calendar assigns each parent (and child) a color, so you can view everyone’s commitments at a glance. Reminders keep co-parents on track so no one misses an important appointment or event. Switch to the daily agenda view to see that day’s events, current to-dos and notes all on one easy-to-digest page. With the to-do list feature you can record essential tasks and assign family members to any list to share the load. Cozi shopping lists lets you create individual lists for back-to-school supplies and birthday or holiday gifts—when one parent buys an item they can check it off the list so your kid doesn’t receive the same present twice. Genius! You can even add your little one’s favorite meals to the recipe box page, so they can chow down at Mom or Dad’s house.
- App is free to use
- Color-coded shared calendar
- You can add extended family members, babysitters, etc
- No expenses tracker or messenger service
App Close is a court-approved co-parenting app recommended by parents and professionals alike. Why? Like the other options on this list it has a user-friendly interface and tons of practical applications. The calendar has a scheduling tool that lets you set up and track parenting time using statistics—you can also export your records for free. An integrated expense tracker lets you upload receipts, submit expenses for reimbursement and send or receive money in-app. A tamper-proof messenger lets you communicate with a co-parent and all messages are time-stamped. But the real standout feature is that you can audio or video call your co-parent using the app. AppClose automatically documents every attempted, missed and completed call in case you ever need the records. Don’t want to receive calls? No problem. Simply disable this feature and you’ll never receive unwanted calls.
- In-app payments
- Audio and video call feature
- Tamper-proof messaging
- Some parents say it’s difficult to amend or delete scheduled events
We get it—co-parenting can be tough, but there are tools that can help manage conflict and improve communication. To streamline your decision-making process, our goal is to do the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling online. We do this by considering a list of criteria when sourcing co-parenting apps, including ease of use, key features, security and more. This way you can count on getting the best bang for your buck, while also having a dependable co-parenting app that brings equilibrium to your family. To understand essential features and safety considerations to keep top of mind we also spoke with a licensed marriage and family counselor.
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Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, ATR-BC, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and board-certified art therapist. She is the owner and founder of Take Root Therapy, a group psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles, California.