By Colleen Honquest
I first heard about Our Family Wizard back in 2015 when I was studying for my Divorce Coaching Certification. I remember thinking that it sounded like a useful tool for my clients and that was all. I guess I thought that my divorce proceedings were over so why would I use OFW? It was not until 2017, when I had to file for (yet another) Order of Protection from my ex-husband, that I truly understood the benefits of Our Family Wizard (OFW). You see, I went through a High Conflict Divorce myself in 2008 and I am still harassed and targeted for blame and abuse by my ex-husband. He is a High Conflict Personality who can’t manage his emotions, think rationally, or focus on the well-being of our son. As Bill Eddy states in his books, “High Conflict People aren’t just difficult people, they are the MOST difficult people.”
As I mentioned, this summer I had to file another Order of Protection against my ex-husband and, this time, I asked the judge to order that he and I only be allowed to communicate on Our Family Wizard. I am tired of the never- ending barrage of texts and emails and phone calls from my ex. Our Judge ordered us to sign up for OFW at $99 each per year. For $8.25 per month, I have more peace in my life. My ex’s texts and emails are all filed where the court or any professional that I choose can see at any time.
Over the years, I have learned not to respond to these desperate attempts to harass and control me except for in a BIFF manner. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm another tool that I have learned from Bill Eddy’s teachings. However, I still had to keep track and file all of his messages in case the court wanted to see evidence of the abuse and try to sort out all of the “he said, she said” that typically ensued. This used to take hours of my time organizing, filing and copying them to my lawyer. It added so much stress that it affected my quality of life. Now, all of our correspondence is saved automatically. Everything is stamped with the date and time and I can even see when he views my messages to him. According to our court order, my ex cannot contact me by phone unless it is a medical or school emergency with my son. OFW allows me to set up notification alerts so I know every time he does send me a message, I can receive notification alerts via email and text.
The more I use Our Family Wizard the more benefits I find. Recently, I gave my lawyer permission to access my OFW files by simply giving OFW her name and email and then OFW sent her a request. She then was able to access OFW for free and see my files and review them.
A few other benefits of Our Family Wizard are:
- A calendar to track parenting time, family activities and events for the children, holiday schedules, and more. Parents can even make simple requests for trades in parenting time right on the calendar. That way, all information about the schedule stays on the calendar without having to be written out elsewhere.
- An expense log where parents document shared parenting expenses, reimbursement requests, and can even make payments between each other for things like unreimbursed medical expenses or child support.
- An information bank (“My Files”) for parents to store important family data such as insurance details, medical information, emergency contacts, emails, and much more. Parents can also upload shared files like report cards, field trip permission slips, homework, photos, and other important documents.
- Messaging on OFW will always document the date and time that a message is sent and first viewed by a parent. Also, OFW offers Tonemeter for messages, which helps parents to be more aware of their tone when communicating. This is at an added cost.
- I can also upload screenshots of texts from my ex and save them in the My Files area with descriptions and dates.
More than facilitating clear and documented communication, Our Family Wizard helps parents to be more conscious about protecting their children from conflict. The “private zone” that OFW creates for parent communication is not easily accessible for children, unlike overhearing a phone call or seeing a text message flash across their parent’s smartphone. This helps to shield children from difficult conversations that they don’t need to be a part of and lets them focus on just being kids. In my case, this was of paramount importance as my son was seeing and hearing a lot of conflict between us at his father’s house, and he began to internalize the stress and he became anxious and depressed.
Our Family Wizard is one of the tools that I am now using to help bring more peace and decrease stress in my life. As someone who was married to an HCP and has to co-parent with one, I recommend Our Family Wizard wholeheartedly. I am a better mother to my son and less consumed with keeping track of and documenting every interaction with my ex husband.
Colleen Honquest, Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Coach
Founder, DivorceMD, LLC