Introducing, OurFamilyWizard® — A Tool for Co-Parents
Launched in 1999, OurFamilyWizard® has been helping divorcing families navigate the details of co-parenting for two decades. The OurFamilyWizard® offers co-parents a comprehensive suite of tools including a shared calendar, a message board, an expenses log, a journal, an information bank and has become a court-ordered technology tool. Families can use OurFamilyWizard® for $99/year and can invite hired professionals (such as attorneys or co-parenting therapists) to use the application for free. Read our interview with CEO Jai Kissoon to learn more about OurFamilyWizard®.
Jai was interviewed by Divorceify Co-founder Casey Rose Shevin.
Casey Shevin: OurFamilyWizard® has a great story behind it – can you tell us how this family owned and operated business got its start twenty years ago?
Jai Kissoon: My mom had been a family law attorney for 25 plus years when her cousin Paul had the idea for Our Family Wizard. He got divorced from the mother of his children and then remarried a woman who had a child through open adoption. The first time Paul and his former spouse planned the Christmas parenting schedule they had a simple miscommunication about whether a week meant 5 days or 7 days, and it led to them booking overlapping trips. That miscommunication kind of ruined the whole holiday season because everybody was stressed out. At that point, Paul called my mom thinking she would know of tools to make coordinating co-parenting easier, but there wasn’t anything.
My mom called me as the family tech person and we decided to start a company. We launched our beta version of OurFamilyWizard® in 2001. About a year later, we started working with the Hennepin County court system where we set up a pilot program. The court had identified about two hundred families that they considered high conflict families. These families were back in court week after week, fighting over small stuff and clogging up the court system – mom didn’t do this, or dad didn’t do that. The court was very interested in finding a solution that would help keep these families from returning to court all the time.
We took the forty most repeat offenders from the court system into our program. For about two years, these families used our site and just about all of them disappeared from the court system because they started handling issues on their own. After two years the judge who set up the program called us back to say “I have got to tell you, we had one of the families come back to court — but the good news for you is, part of the reason why they’re back in court is because one of the parents stopped using your site.”
Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of parents. We have parents logging into OurFamilyWizard® from about 60 different countries all over the world. We have a really high percentage of military people who use the site and we offer a military discount program to help those families.
Shevin: What is the basic purpose of OurFamilyWizard®?
Kissoon: The most basic functionality we offer is transparency. If I have the responsibility to tell my co-parent a piece of information, OurFamilyWizard® is a way for me to not only do that but also to document that I did so; I’m showing that I’m meeting my parenting obligations.
OurFamilyWizard® provides organization. Instead of digging through 500 emails to look for one on a certain topic, parents can jump into our site and navigate easily to the specific issue they need to deal with – whether it’s scheduling, information sharing etc. When people send traditional messages via text or email they often include a number of different topics in one message. With our site, if you want to talk about the calendar, you go to the calendar; if you want to update the parents on the kids’ clothing sizes we have a section for that; if you want to note that you took them to the doctor, and got a tetanus shot, there’s a spot for that; if you need to be reimbursed for an expense, we have the expense log for that.
Shevin: In my practice as an attorney I have had clients tell me that during and after divorce their texts and emails are incredibly stressful to look at because they never know when there will be an upsetting email from their ex; it must be nice to keep everything in one place and separate from other emails and texts.
Kissoon: Absolutely. Communicating with OurFamilyWizard® gives you some much-needed space. But if you ask, we will alert you when there is new activity on your account.
Shevin: OurFamilyWizard® offers a function called Tone Meter to assist in drafting messages to your ex – can you tell me how that works?
Kissoon: As you type a message into the site, Tone Meter gives you feedback on your tone. It will look at the context in which you’re speaking and, depending on context, flag it as aggressive, humiliating, concerning, etc. We don’t change any of the text but we try to highlight things you may want to reconsider and rephrase. This feature is a premium add-on that costs ten dollars per year.
Shevin: How does the OurFamilyWizard® calendar function differ from something like sharing an Apple or Google Calendar?
Kissoon: On most standard calendars you just go in and you create an event. The OurFamilyWizard® calendar is a parenting schedule that has multiple layers to it. Each parent’s time can be color coded way out into the future based on the agreed upon or decreed schedule. Layered on top of that, we have a patented feature that allows parents to trade days. One of the most important parts of this function is that each trade request, has an expiration date on the offer that prompts the other parent to respond. On top of that, we offer the ability to color code holidays, as well as recurring regular events like an after-school activity etc. If you do find yourself back in court with a conflict over the schedule, the calendar keeps a record of how the parenting schedule was modified and when.
Shevin: And how does the OurFamilyWizard® expense log work?
Kissoon: One parent enters an expense (with the ability to attach a receipt) and the expense is then categorized. Each category has an agreed upon split between the parents; maybe medical expenses are split evenly, but dad pays 75% of hockey. The expense tracker automatically subdivides the total in each category. Once one parent enters an expense, the other parent gets an alert. The parent receiving the expense split request has the ability to approve, refuse, or request a receipt if there isn’t one already attached. Once the expense is approved, parents can pay each other through our system or outside of our system.
Shevin: And what do families use the journal function for?
Kissoon: The journal function allows you to make notes on calendar events. Anything from whether your child won their soccer game, to your co-parent being late for pick-up again. Journal entries can be private or shared with your co-parent.
Shevin: And finally, what is the information bank?
Kissoon: The information bank is a place to store information like the phone number for the pediatrician or the soccer coach, your child’s current shoe size, allergies, medications, a list of things that need to travel between homes, etc.
Shevin: When should a professional recommend OurFamilyWizard® to a client?
Kissoon: Honestly, just about anybody going through a divorce could benefit from it. There are a number of mediators throughout the country that include usage of OurFamilyWizard® as part of their retainer agreement because, it just makes their job so much easier. Professionals should be handling the big issues like the happiness of the children, setting the schedules, dividing the finances. There are so many important matters that need to be decided, and if you can empower the families to handle the minutia, it’s better for everyone.
Learn more about OurFamilyWizard® here.