Even through divorce, parents still want to prioritize their kids first, but sometimes dealing with your partner in person turns this into a gargantuan task. Thanks to technology, co-parenting can now be done through an app, eliminating the need for in-person meet ups with your ex-partner. After going through tough times in his divorce, Jonathan Verk, the CEO and Co-founder of Hyphenus, thought of making it easy for everybody else. He talks about their flagship product, coParenter, and how it can help people with their co-parenting issues before they even think about bringing it to court. Discover the different features and benefits of using the app, especially on freeing more time for both parties in order to prioritize what’s important, which is the children.
Listen to the podcast here:
Putting Your Kids First While Co-Parenting…Using An App! With Jonathan Verk
I know I say it, I always do, I’m excited but this is an important episode and I’m going to get serious. I’m not even going to swear. This is why it’s important for everybody, if you are divorced, if you are thinking about divorce, if you’re single and you have children, if you’re co-parenting, if you’re thinking about co-parenting, if you are out there and you are with children and you are thinking about any of this stuff. I have one of the smartest guys I know. He’s smart. He did something amazing, it’s called coParenter. Jonathan Verk, come on. Jonathan, I’m your biggest fan. For everyone, coParenter is an app that everyone must have on their phones. If you don’t have your podcast app, next to it should be coParenter. If you’re divorced or you’re working on divorce or you’re getting separated or thinking about it. Jonathan Verk is here to tell us what it is and I’m going to be quiet and let Jonathan talk about it. Jonathan, how are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
I’m good. Thank you for being here.
Thank you for having me.
Tell everybody what this amazing app does and start from the beginning. How did it start and what’s happening?
CoParenter, as you point out, is good for anybody who’s involved in separation, divorce or co-parenting. Our platform is for parents who want to take a child-centric approach to their separation, divorce and co-parenting relationship. It helps them keep their kids’ interests and needs front and center, as they go through a process that is specifically designed to not do that. As you know, the divorce system is designed to make sure that the parents’ rights are maintained and they can and should be. What coParenter does is help these parents manage, organize and document their entire co-parenting relationship so that they can focus on the legal issues elsewhere, either with or without an attorney.
Our tool helps people communicate, manage and organize their co-parenting responsibilities. We use artificial intelligence to help parents predict and prevent the most common conflicts from occurring. When they do occur, because they will, they are humans in complex relationships, parents. We connect them with a live on-demand co-parenting professional who can help them in real-time understand the nature of their issue. Brainstorm ways to resolve them and work with them to do so, and then help them create their agreement, draft that agreement, and synchronize it from wherever they are. It’s the uberization of child-rearing with somebody who you don’t live with and may or may not get along with but certainly where the decisions need to be made. It amps up the pressure and the stress and sometimes people need a little bit of extra help. Others need to document that the process occurred in the first.
I have so many questions. First of all, this app does everything that you would do in person, but you can do it on an app without talking to your ex, is that correct?
You could do that without face-to-face interaction. If you don’t get along with your ex, you can be on an app and you have judges.
Our on-demand co-parenting professionals are retired family law judges, mental health practitioners, experienced mediators and therapists who understand child well-being. They have a deep and dense history, careers in mediation, family court services and being on the bench. They help parents take a more child-centric approach to resolve their disputes. The truth is, most of what people argue about are co-parenting issues, 80%. There’s a report that came out of IAALS. We’ve been talking about 80% of issues in and outside of court being co-parenting related for years. A report came out of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System that documented specifically articulated 80% of what people fight about, are co-parenting issues, that is non-legal.
That’s true. I’m lucky and few people have what I have. My ex and I, we co-parent beautifully. We’ve got along from the beginning. It’s tough and we have our rough patches, but co-parenting is difficult. That 80%, I believe it. Your app is incredible, everything I believe in, it’s putting your kids first. It absolutely reduces conflict and it also limits your court time, doesn’t it?
If it’s used right. First of all, starting at the beginning, 80% of what people fight about in and out of court are non-legal co-parenting issues, which they bring to a legal environment. By the way, Americans as a whole, we spend $80 billion a year resolving these issues, 80% of which is wasted because they’re resolving non-legal issues or trying to in a legal context. What coParenter does is it helps parents first be able to assess, “Do I have a legal issue or is this a co-parenting issue?” We arm them with the appropriate resources to resolve it. If one parent is late for pick-up and drop-off, that’s not a legal issue. It’s terribly inconvenient and disrespectful, but it isn’t legal, and when you bring it into court, everybody gets frustrated because the judge doesn’t make a call. The judge doesn’t make a call because there isn’t a law that says, “You’re going to decide on one parent being late for pick up and drop off.”
Everybody’s wasting everybody’s time. You’ve wasted the attorney’s time, each other’s time. They’re going to be mad at each other. It’s craziness. This app can stop you from doing that, it’s the coolest thing. Everyone, you’ve got to get this app.Conflicts occur because parents are human in complex relationships. Click To Tweet
One of the things that we know with certainty is when parents make agreements early in the process, it has a profound impact on the quality, the longevity and the outcome of their relationship, which is what they supposedly want. The problem is that even to establish a parenting plan, a parenting time schedule, there are three ways to do it, obviously you can’t get divorced without one. You can try and figure it out with your ex, which is pretty tough and usually unsuccessful. You can hire a third party to help you, a mediator, a therapist or a lawyer, or you can get in line with everybody else and wait for a judge, wait 18, 36 months before a judge tells you what your schedule is going to be.
With coParenter, you can go out in the hallway if you are in a court or you can start weeks, months in advance. Start to create a parenting plan, a parenting time schedule, a holiday vacation plan and all the ground rules of how you’re going to parent your kids and how decisions will be made. No matter how good or bad your relationship is, this is not the first time a parenting plan has been drafted and they evolve. We use tools, we use technology to help parents establish a parenting plan from the outset and that in and of itself. It is busy, you could go down a self-guided road where if you already have a parenting plan, you’re going to do the information. You can use the tool to help capture a proposed optimal parenting plan that then gets compared to your ex and takes you down the road. You can also work with a live on-demand co-parenting professional who can help you understand what the schedule should look like and how it works with your personal calendar.
I wish I had this. Even though my ex and I, we get along, I could’ve used this.
When you and I were going through what we went through, if you wanted to have a meeting about your parenting time schedule, you’ve got to get a day off of work or at least the afternoon off of work. You get in your car, you go to the appointment, this is the most peaceful way to do it, is with a mediator. We know that. You take the afternoon off of work, you go down, you pay your mediator however many hundreds of dollars an hour to be with somebody who you are trying to get away from. Sitting there for three hours or whatever it is, is very uncomfortable. You’re looking at your watch, waiting for this session to be over, arguing, getting triggered and paying for it all. With coParenter, you can do this asynchronously. You do it as you see fit on your time and your co-parent is doing the same. Within about a week and a half to two weeks, the parenting plan lines up. It’s about two hours in the aggregate that it takes people to do, but over the course of two weeks, you have established a parenting plan. You’ve got input from a professional who knows what they’re doing and helps bring it into context.
Jonathan, where were you a couple of years ago? Honestly, when I heard about you, I’m your biggest fan, I was like, “It’s brilliant.” I looked at the app right before I got on with you to record, you’ve even updated cooler stuff. It’s getting better by the minute. You can do expense tracking, reimbursement. Talk about all this new stuff.
One of the big things that you address is that because we are a tech company, we are built from the ground up to continue offering new services to our users, which is a significant difference from court systems which have a specific job to do and not enough resources to do it. The court systems are having a real struggle just delivering the services that they are constitutionally obligated to deliver. When you’re using tools like this, you are able to get yourself out of the whirlwind of the court systems and try a different approach. It’s a more amicable, a more streamlined, and a far more convenient, certainly less expensive approach to co-parent.
When people can’t get along and you’re not amicable, it makes it much easier to get along, because you don’t have to be as face-to-face and fighting in front of the kids. Especially, you can pick up your phone and have conversations. You also do that whole thing where I noticed too, if it helps you have conversations that are more pleasant.
When we started coParenter and we were going to courts, we are piloting with a number of courts and judges across the country. We got firsthand observation experience watching people use this tool. People would walk into court, you are lucky you never ended up there, but it is not a fun place for a family. It’s tough, stressful and everything explodes right there. These people walk in, they haven’t spoken to each other, they hate each other, and they’re angry, hurt and sad. We give them this platform and we get them on-boarded. After either not talking or having acrimonious communication, the first thing that people send to each other every single time through the app is hello.
It restarts, it resets their relationship in a new digital context, where everything is documented. Everybody behaves better in daylight. People are less acrimonious. Our tool, what it does is it helps people communicate better. It works in a similar texting context but we’ve instrumented it with filters and algorithms that help identify words, names, phrases or sentiment even. We can do sentiment analysis which will over time learn how two people communicate and offer up alternative ways to state something, if you’re looking to have a more positive outcome. If you and I are communicating and I’m like, “Whatever,” you may not care about that word, but my ex gets triggered by that word.
When someone says, “Chill out,” to me or, “Breathe,” I can’t stand it.
Do you want to jump through the phone and kill them?
What our tool does is it learns over time how the other person responds to that communication. It can offer up alternatives like, “Maybe don’t send chill out because the last four times you sent that, you got all caps.” Now technology can do that, which is exciting.
Everyone needs to pick up the phone right now and download coParenter immediately. I feel strongly about it. This is it, everybody, I’m telling you right now, you’ve got to get this app. This is the future. Everyone is always saying to me, “I want to put the kids first and it’s hard.” If you want to put your kids first, this is something you need to do. This is something to put your kids first. I have many clients that come to me and they’re like, “It’s hard to be nice.” This is something that can help you. This app, is putting your kids first. One more thing I have to ask you, you have something called the solo mode, explain.80% of what people argue about are co-parenting issues. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of communication apps out there and we know what they are. They facilitate and document your communication. The problem is that when one parent decides either doesn’t want to invite the other parent or the other parent refuses to connect with the first, the app is useless, it doesn’t do anything, and the messages don’t go anywhere. We’ve created solo mode, which allows a parent to use it whether the other parent wants to or not. Especially in instances where a judge or a court has ordered somebody to use the app, they want to be in compliance. If they’re not in compliance, they can get in trouble. What we’ve done is we have a solo mode. It allows you to communicate when you communicate with your ex and they don’t want to use the app, the communication gets converted into SMS text and they receive it as a text message. When they respond, it gets pulled into coParenter, everything is time and date stamped, it’s non-editable. There’s no way that you can manipulate the data or alter the documented evidence if it comes there.
Frankly, if one parent is refusing to use an app, as simple as innocuous as using an app together so that you can communicate around and organize around the kids, that by definition is high conflict. There is a high likelihood you will end up somewhere near the court system. You hear it over and over, if you’re going to be by the court system, you’re going to need to have everything documented. You’re going to want everything organized. Our app, you push a button, it puts out a report with all of your documented communication, your check-ins for pickup and drop-off, all the instances where a cuss word or a swear word was sent over. All of the other activity, expense tracking and all the times that you tried to make an agreement that was refused, it gives the judge some decent context as to how you’re behaving as a co-parent. If the other one isn’t behaving at all, that says a lot as well.
Check-ins, explain that. When you drop off the kids, you can text back there.
We try to make it a full co-parenting platform, it’s meant to streamline co-parenting.
One more thing I noticed that you’re doing is about technology, let’s say you want screen time at one house to be the same as screen time in your house. That’s something new I noticed too.
Once you establish a parenting plan and a parenting time schedule, then life goes on. Our tool makes it easy to make a simple, consolidated brief request of the other parent. Whether it’s signing them up for tennis lessons, swapping a weekend, getting the passports renewed, taking them to visit Abuela in Mexico City, whatever the case may be, you can make consolidated-type business-like requests. We take that structured data and create a proposal that the other parent can agree, decline or counter-offer. That’s it. If they agree, then everything is taken care of in the background. The weekends are put into your calendars, it’s all organized in the background. If it’s a travel request, the itinerary is put in your calendar, a reminder for passport, exchanging passport. Even an automated letter of authorization could be sent to both parents.
If it’s declined, then you can escalate the issue to an on-demand co-parenting professional who can help you understand and maybe, come up with alternatives to what you’ve requested. We have that end-to-end resolution process. At the core of what we’re doing is we’re helping parents come to agreement. Our technology is designed to help foster civility using computer intelligence and human wisdom, helping people come to these agreements. If one parent feels that they’re watching too much TV or the wrong kind of media at one home, they can make a proposal about screen time, for example. We have it all the time.
I wish I had your app. I’m going to go get it. Mark and I, I text him in the middle of that like, “The boys need to stop watching.” I feel like I could use it too, for no reason.
I wrote an article, it’s not about being morbid, it’s the reality. There’s a lot going on in the world. I had an incident where there was a concern that there was going to be a shooter at my child’s high school. I was thinking, “Holy smokes.” I was on September 11th, I was there, I was in the building, I was helping people out. I was there by the school where there was absolute pandemonium. That crisis is not the time to start coming up with a plan. It’s not the time to decide who’s going to pick up the kids from school and who’s home they’re going to, make a plan ahead of time. Our tool allows you to create these agreements in an organic way that is safe and legal. If two parents make an agreement, they’re agreeing to something and there’s a record of it.
You’re amazing, this whole thing is amazing and everyone should have it. I appreciate you coming here because you’re doing amazing work. Everyone can find this app, it’s coParenter. Is there anything else I need to know, Jonathan?
There’s so much. If you want to check it out, we’re available in both app stores. We’re switching from a finite amount of get help requests. We used to have credits that you would use to access on-demand co-parenting professionals, we’re doing away with that and we’re going to open it up and make it unlimited. If people have a problem at 2:00 in the morning, they can access and if they have a problem at 1:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday, we’ll be there.
You have a 30-day free trial, correct?
Yeah. It’s plenty of time, by the way, to create a parenting plan. I don’t want you to blast the app, but you have to create a parenting plan and get yourself sorted and started and on your way. That’s the least we can do.
Jonathan, thank you for being here, I appreciate you.
For the audience, go grab it, coParenter. It is one of my favorite apps. That’s all there is to it. Everyone, thanks for being here. You can find me as usual www.JenniferHurvitz.com, I’m everywhere and my new book, Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide to Staying Married, grab it and that’s it. That’s all I got for you. Peace, love and absolutely 100% truth.
- Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide to Staying Married
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanverk
- Twitter: @coParenter
About Jonathon Verk
Jonathon Verk, CEO & Co-founder of Hyphenus, the pioneering provider of Intelligent Dispute Resolution (IDR) technology. Their flagship product, coParenter, helps separating, divorced and never-married parents predict, prevent and resolve conflict, allowing them to make better coParenting decisions for their kids.
In addition to his day jobs, Jonathan has devoted himself to social justice organizer, CMO of Nicholas Negreponte’s One Laptop Per Child and an advisor to Vice President Al Gore. He founded Hyphenus after experiencing the impact family litigation can have on families.