AI – an unexpected ally for separating families?

Communicating with an ex-partner can always have difficulties. But with the use of co-parenting apps on the rise, is artificial intelligence an unexpected ally for separating parents?

There are many co-parenting apps on the market currently; OurFamilyWizard, Cozi Family Organiser, TalkingParents, WeParent and 2Houses to name just a handful. These apps offer features that can help separating couples to communicate and support effective co-parenting, when communication is difficult or perhaps has broken down. Co-parenting apps use secure messaging, shared calendars, expense trackers, to-do lists and information storage banks. This provides parents with a hub that allows them to remotely organise their family during a period of separation and beyond, many of which features have an element of AI processing them in the background.

How do co-parenting apps help families?

The apps help facilitate communication between parents and keep an accurate log of written communication – messages cannot be altered or deleted after they have been sent. This can be a useful tool in not only keeping a record of messages, but also allowing a level of accountability between parents who may give greater thought to a message before sending it in the knowledge that it cannot be retracted. Accurate data of when messages are sent, received and read, as well as when calls are attempted, missed, rejected or completed, is also available on many of the apps. This is a good record-keeping method, to monitor remote contact arrangements between parents and their children.

The organisation tools can help separated couples to stay on top of their commitments throughout separation which can be a very overwhelming and stressful time. If each parent is able to access the other’s availability, they can work together to arrange their joint child commitments. Parents are able to share their individual responsibilities with each other, which creates an element of transparency when making care arrangements. This in turn can also promote children’s trust and confidence in their parents by reducing missed commitments or broken promises.

How is AI used within these apps?

As with any method of contact, the apps are reliant on cooperation from both parents. The tools helpfully provided by these apps are only effective if properly engaged with. There is no benefit to be derived from one sided communication, or updates posted about children that are not read or acknowledged by the other parent. The input from both parents also needs to stem from a mutual respect of each other, being mindful to remain civil and ensure the focus remains on parenting the children, instead of being bogged down by personal arguments. This is where AI intervention can be a particularly useful ally to separating families.

OurFamilyWizard has a unique feature called ToneMeter, which flags emotionally-charged phrases and suggests alternative wording before the message is sent. The use of AI enables the app to “identify how that message will come across to your co-parent. It marks passages that could seem aggressive, humiliating, upsetting, or hurtful so that you have a chance to rewrite it.” It is a common talking point that while AI technology is useful for factual information, it cannot replicate human emotion. OurFamilyWizard is a great example of where less emotion can in fact be a good thing.

We are also seeing an increase in use of AI technology in call features. TalkingParents for example allows phone and video calls to be recorded, saved and transcribed in the app. Instead of parents having to keep their own notes of conversations that have taken place, AI software does this for them and keeps the transcripts helpfully stored in one place.

While AI will never be able to replace the nuance a family lawyer can advise upon, it has opened up a world of opportunity for parents who want to communicate in a more streamlined way.

Chloe Waul, Trainee Solicitor at Ashfords LLP

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