Co-parenting apps are the go-to tools for separated couples to effectively manage the care of their children. Our Family Wizard is considered a leading co-parenting app and possibly the most well-known.
The question “what is the best app for co-parenting” comes up in our group a lot and Our Family Wizard often makes the conversation. For this reason, I have done a thorough review of the app including:
- Our Family Wizard app overview
- How OFW started
- The features and how they work
- How it works for families/practitioners
- Our Family Wizard cost
- Special offers
- The free trial
- Customer support
- The good and not so good
- My review conclusion
Our Family Wizard app overview
Our Family Wizard is an online platform for families to simplify co-parenting, document information, and improve communication and for family law and mental health practitioners to improve case management and help lower conflict.
Based in Minneapolis, MN, over 1 million people use the website and the iOS/Android apps in America, Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. These global platforms let parents share calendars, track spending, send payments, hold information, and non-verbally communicate.
In my experience working within the single parent realm for ten years, it is the most recommended co-parenting app by professionals, such as family lawyers and mental health workers. I believe this is because they personally like the app but also because they can access it (more about this later). It is endorsed by family courts and in some cases, judges will order separated parents to use Our Family Wizard for two reasons:
- If co-parents use the app there will be less conflict and they are less likely to return to court
- The app records information that can help resolution in future family law cases
How OFW started
OFW was founded in 20o1 by a guy called Paul Volker who was living and breathing the challenges of co-parenting life.
He co-parents his three children with his first wife and now lives with his second wife, Dara, who has one daughter. Both his and Dara’s ex-partner have also remarried. Confusing? You bet.
Paul tried a few different apps to help them get a handle on co-parenting but none hit the mark, so he built one. I love it when services are created by people looking for solutions to the problems they are experiencing because the results are usually excellent.
It turned out that Paul had lots of handy people in his extended family who were perfect to help him get his idea off the ground, starting with his cousin who has 25+ experience as a family lawyer and lots of tech-minded relations, many going through their own family separations. Everything fell into place and Our Family Wizard was born.
Although the app is 20+ years old, it moves with the times. For example, in April 2021 it announced the release of a new mobile experience for building and tracking parenting time schedules with templates and colour-coding.
The Our Family Wizard app on my phone
The features and how they work
Calendar and family schedule
The OFW colour-coded, shared calendar allows both parents to see what is happening and when in relation to their children.
I’ve used a couple of shared calendars and found this a little clunky to start but I persevered because of the OFW’s Trade/Swap™ tool which is one of my favourite features of the app. However, organised we are, time swaps are needed for unforeseen circumstances such as work commitments or medical issues. If you need to change a time, you make a request and all the communication linked to the request is recorded. If you reach an agreement and change the time, the calendar is automatically updated.
The calendar also features Holiday Scheduling which allows you to record set holidays as per court orders or to change them up each year. You can add in personalised events such as birthdays and plan as far in advance as you need to, which I recommend you do. Planning early and recording on a shared calendar is highly conducive to reduced conflict.
The message board is a level up over texting and email.
If you send a message to your ex through OFW it will go through their own email server so it is as secure as it gets. Messages can never be edited, deleted or retracted and they get time-stamped when they are first viewed.
You can use the Moments and Check In tags to prove where you are and when and to add more context to the message history for your own security.
I see lots of single mums asking how to download text messages from their phones to resolve conflict. Consequently, my favourite feature (alongside Trade/Swap™) on Our Family Wizard is the ability to easily and tidily download all message threads without drama.
The message board has an optional feature called ToneMeter™ which is a bit like Grammarly but for your co-parenting communication. It detects the tone of your message and alerts you if your message sounds rude or is written in a manner that might antagonise or cause conflict. Oh, and it also checks your spelling!
The OFW could either be a happy place or a horrid place. The idea is for co-parents to share and record information on this diary-like interface.
You can add to the diary one of two ways:
- Check ins: Verify your location at any given time to prove you are where you should be
- Moments: Record events and occurrences by tagging the location and adding photos
Both the above can be shared with your ex or kept as a personal record for yourself.
I am slightly wary of the journal because, although it can only deal with facts, it might cause conflict. Perhaps the other parent doesn’t want to know you’re on the other side of town with their kids. And sending a location snap to them when they are two minutes late to prove you are on time might cause conflict.
On the flip side, if you have an amicable relationship with your co-parent, the Journal is a great space to keep each other up-to-date with the kid’s activities and share those special moments. After all, no one will appreciate the cuteness of little Johnny getting ice cream all over his face as much as his other parent. Sometimes they are the only people who get these special moments so being able to share them so easily through the app is a good thing.
The financial aspect of co-parenting for myself and my ex was the hardest part. The problem was not paying but who paid what, and when. We tried a shared bank account but ended up closing it as it was all too hard.
Hence the expense log in Our Family Wizard is a life-saver if you are sharing co-parenting costs. It is a payment system in itself and alleviates the need for a shared bank account because if payment is requested, the party can make it through the app.
Requests for payments must include a certain level of detail so none of these “oh yeah the school shoes were about $70”. If you want money from the other parent you must show exactly what you spent, on what, and when. The app then very cleverly takes the expense and works out what percentage each parent pays and who owes what.
Payments are made through OFWpay™ and are 100% secure so you don’t need to share any financial information.
This feature works brilliantly if your cost splitting is straightforward because for the app to work out how the expenses are split, you need to feed the information in first. However, if you don’t have a set procedure for each payment, the app can’t help to dictate the split but you can still use the secure platform to reimburse one another.
Yet another frequently asked question in our group is “how can I get a copy of my child’s passport?“. Or “my ex wants a copy of our child’s passport, how do I do this”.
I think of the OFW Info Bank as the filing cabinet we would have in our spare room if we still lived together. Keeping and sharing information this way is even better. You can use it for photocopies of passports, birth certificates, medical records, photos, and emergency contacts. I even know one couple who share recipes in their Info Bank so they both cook food their kids love … next level co-parenting.
Everything you put on the Info Bank is protected by the OWF server which provides peace of mind that nothing will get lost, plus it saves time and possible conflict if asking one another for important documents.
A point of difference for OFW compared to other co-parenting apps is that it allows access, not only to co-parents but also to other practitioners who assist in co-parenting situations. These include:
- Family lawyers
- Family mediators
- Mental health professionals
Professionals can rely on the OFW app to streamline record keeping, case management and report writing.
At first, I didn’t like the idea of allowing others to use the app and have access to your information, it felt invasive. However, for couples struggling and in need of third-party support, I can see that it could be a godsend. How better to explain the nature of your co-parenting relationship than to let a professional view your communication? Even better, if toxic behaviour or coercive control is taking place, a professional can pick up on it and intervene much sooner than would otherwise happen.
For me, if I knew someone was monitoring my behaviour and tone, I know I would behave better!
Our Family Wizard cost
There are two bundle packages. One for one-year and the other for two-years. You save if you book the two-year bundle. Here are the current details as of 2023.
If neither of these options works for you, OFW offers the option to create your own plan.
Note: Each parent needs their own account and must pay the membership fee. However, each parent can add as many third-party, child, and professional accounts as needed at no extra cost. Think friends and family members who help you care for your kids.
The Financial Hardship Program
The OFW fee waiver program is designed for those who don’t have the financial means to purchase an annual subscription. To qualify, in most cases, you need to be working with legal aid, receive certain forms of government assistance, or have an attorney doing pro bono work for you.
Military Family Discount
OFW recognises the strain that military employment has on families, whether they are separated or not. It, therefore, provides 50% off the cost of subscription (one subscription is free) to partnered parents and co-parents if one party is in the military.
THE FREE TRIAL
Yes, there is a free trial! But it is in the form of a 30-day money back guarantee on the Essentials and Premium subscription plans.
You still need to sign-up and provide payment details but you can get a full refund if the app is not for you.
I like this option because 30-days is enough time to see if the app is going to work for you and your ex as a co-parenting couple. Unless both parties take the time to learn and use the app, it is useless. The success of all co-parenting apps is down to the commitment of the users. If, after 30-days, the app is not working, even because of one parent, you can get your money back.
You can contact OFW customer support via their website, email or phone. The phone line is in the US only which is a shame as I would love to be able to phone a help desk in Australia.
The “contact” button is easy to find on the website and the OFW app which is always promising.
The app looks like it has a Live Chat option but sadly it doesn’t and you are taken to the contact form. I completed a “Contact Us” form and received a response within 2-hours which I was happy with.
The OFW contact page on my phone
The good and not so good
What I like about Our Family Wizard
- Family courts recognise and even recommend it which gives a sense of safety should you end up in court one day (hopefully you don’t though)
- There are some handy features that genuinely make my life easier such as Trade/Swap™ to simplify one-off changes to care arrangements
- Everything in the app is recorded and can be downloaded with minimal fuss including open dates and all that important info
- Family separation specialists work with you on the app for easier monitoring, faster intervention, and more accurate reporting
- OFWpay™ means easier cost splitting but, most importantly, no sharing bank details with my ex
- Hardship specials make it accessible to low earners
- There is a security to this app that makes me feel comfortable sharing information, especially in the Info Bank which has been invaluable
- It definitely works to reduce conflict between co-parents which ultimately means happier kids … the No.1 priority for me
What I don’t like about Our Family Wizard
- Compared to other co-parenting apps on the market it can be pricey especially as both parents need to pay for a subscription but with co-parenting apps, it is a case of “you get what you pay for”
- It would be good to see increased storage on the Essentials plan, which is a little miserly
- There is no search function on the mobile app unless I have missed it
- Please OFW give us a phone number with phone support in Australia and the other countries you serve outside the USA
- I have experienced the odd glitch on the interface (app only)
- ToneMeter™ has the potential to be brilliant but occasionally makes random suggestions that don’t make sense
Setting up OFW on my phone
Is Our Family Wizard worth the money?
There is nothing more valuable than giving your children a happy, healthy upbringing. If Our Family Wizard helps to do that, and it does for many co-parenting couples, then it is worth every cent/penny.
If the app helps to settle matters in the family court faster, this is also a huge money saver. Avoiding the family court or minimising time spent there will be worth the cost of the app several times over.
However, if you and your ex-partner have an amicable relationship you might find a more basic, free co-parenting app is enough for you and some ex-couples get by without using an app.
My review conclusion
The idea of a co-parenting app is to reduce conflict and make better co-parents because calm parents = happy kids. Our Family Wizard does this.
For me, I needed a tool to simplify life, not complicate it, which is what I found happened with other less user-friendly apps. The last thing you want is to argue even more with your ex because the app doesn’t work.
The words I would associate with Our Family Wizard are: Safe, secure, solid, reliable, forward-thinking, and stress reducing.
My advice? Every co-parenting relationship is unique and what works for one is not necessarily right for another. Try it and see what happens. After all, anything that will make life easier and our children happier has got to be a good thing.