Our Family Wizard
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Our Family Wizard is an online program (also available as an app) that allows communication between parents. Advertised as “A comprehensive application to solve shared parenting challenges once and for all”, it includes tools such as a calendar, message board, expense log, journal and information bank. The main feature, the Message Board, is in essence a secure log of all emails, including time stamps when sent, received, read and replied. Messages can’t be altered or deleted, but can be shared with other parties like your respective legal teams.
For many divorcing couples, the Our Family Wizard program gets introduced when it is ordered by the courts (most of the US and many provinces in Canada are now court ordering it’s use). At that point, there really is no option. Both parties are required to register for the program (at a current cost of $99 US per year, per parent). Courts can then request the information in your Our Family Wizard accounts as evidence, knowing it’s secure and unaltered.
My Our Family Wizard Review
At first, I was excited about the prospect of using this product. It was court ordered in our high-conflict custody case, and I was anxious to begin using it for communicating and for the calendar tool. The cost was the first downfall for me. After already spending thousands of dollars in legal fees, I was faced with spending $99 US each year (which for me in Canada meant an extra 25-30% depending on the rate of exchange). While my ex-husband was also under the court order, he didn’t sign up for the service for another 30 days. Other than taking him back to court to charge him with contempt, there would be no way to force him to sign up.
The tool I have the most praise for is the calendar. Although we have been divorced for 11 years, I was never really able to explain our shared custody schedule to teachers, lawyers, social workers, therapists. We have a rotating 8 days schedule, with the boys spending 3 nights with their father, and 5 nights with me. Works for us because of our shift schedules, but it always confused everyone.
Once I entered our information into the Our Family Wizard Calendar, and set it to repeat every 8 weeks, there was a simple, colour coded calendar that everyone instantly understood, and has now been attached to our court documents for ease of explanation! Whenever I have to explain our shared custody schedule to a teacher or psychologist, I can pull out my phone, pull up the app and voila!
The Message Board tool is basically email, no different than any other email program, except it’s securely time stamped. I can see at a glance when emails are sent, received, and most importantly read. For me, one of my biggest struggles in co-parenting was how often my emails were being ignored. Now here was the evidence that indeed emails are being received and read, without reply. The messages are securely kept, and can not be altered or deleted.
But this is where I feel the Our Family Wizard program grinds to a halt. Other than the knowledge that I can keep this information to potentially use in future legal proceedings, there is nothing about the program that is going to solve our shared parenting challenges, certainly not once and for all. There is nothing forcing the other parent to respond. In fact, other than the notion that it won’t look very good on them in the future, if and when you do go back to court, there really is no repercussion for a parent who chooses not to use the program. Sure, I could charge him with contempt of court, but just add that to the other court orders he isn’t following, not to mention my legal bill. That’s the realm of the courts, not this program.
Final Thoughts on Our Family Wizard
For parents that can cooperate in the scheduling and communication around their children, the Our Family Wizard program does have it’s benefits. The Calendar can also be shared with older children. This makes it invaluable keeping up with custody rotations, changes, activities and appointments. The integration between desktop, mobile app, and the ability to add text and email notifications proved very handy. But I suspect that if parents can cooperate enough to use the system, then they likely aren’t really in need of the system.
For me personally, while I still use the program, it is just an expensive exercise in watching how often my emails get ignored. No fault of the program, but no real solution either.
Have you used the Our Family Wizard program? Did you find it helpful? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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