Many reasons to love Our Family Wizard

Posted Friday, February 17th, 2023 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Child Custody, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants

When I first started trying custody cases in 1994, there were no text messages or emails and the World Wide Web was in its infancy.  Very little communication between parents was in writing so very few of my trial exhibits were written communications between the parents.

Obviously that’s changed.  Now my custody trials involve myriad written communications between the parties.  In my last two custody trials I introduced 73 and 104 exhibits—the vast majority of which were written communications from (and mostly between) the parents.

Since evidence for custody trials focuses so heavily on the parties’ written communications, it is very useful for parents to employ methods of communication that can easily be presented to the court. For this reason I hate text message exhibits. First there’s the myriad screenshots that need to be pieced together into a coherent conversation.  Then there’s the fact that clients tend to preserve these messages shortly after sent or received.  A text message that shows it was sent “today,” “yesterday,” or “Wednesday” (as the recent text messages on my phone currently show) is problematic at trial if one needs to prove when it was actually sent.

Email is much better: no need to piece together screen shots into one coherent communication or prove when the email was sent.  But Our Family Wizard (OFW) is better still.  For any parent with co-parenting issues, it is a vital tool in determining why parenting problems exist and how to best remedy them.

One huge advantage OFW has over email is it shows when the message was read.  A lot of times parents will passive aggressively refuse to read the other’s communication or read it and then slow-walk the response.  OFW is useful in demonstrating such behavior. It also has a tone meter that hopefully reduces the insults and snark that are too common in modern custody litigation. Further a parent who sends snarky or insulting OFW messages in spite of the tone meter is demonstrating a failure to heed caution—itself a useful thing to know.

Finally the shared calendaring in OFW presents solid evidence of which events the child(ren) had on which days and can be used to demonstrate when parents actually had the child(ren).  This can be an issue when parties are flexible in their custody scheduling and it’s hard to determine which parent is responsible for school absences or tardies. It also demonstrates if the custodial parent is calendaring events when scheduled (giving the other parent ample opportunity to attend), shortly before the event (giving the other parent little ability to attend) or not at all (given the other parent no ability to attend).

 When my client is the problematic parent, OFW helps me recognize it, demonstrate it to the client, and counsel the client to fix the communication concerns before the case approaches trial.  When the other parent is the problematic one, OFW is a goldmine of admissible exhibits. 

The amount one pays for a year of OFW is less than I would charge to piece together three text message strings from a collection of screenshots.    Even for parents who don’t cohabit but get along, OFW is a useful way to more effectively co-parent.  But for parents who don’t get along, OFW is essential.  From my perspective, evidence gathering is easier and more efficient if the parties have used it throughout the case.

5 thoughts on Many reasons to love Our Family Wizard

  1. jess says:

    For years I was told to only communicate in email and never headed those warnings until partway through my most recent family custody case. Making the switch to OFW was INVALUABLE to my case. Not only did I make the switch, but we had already stopped communicating in person and the two times I did pick up the phone everything was manipulated and used against me, so I stopped using that method as well. That meant all of our communications was now completed through a trackable and presentable to the court way. During trial, we were able to utilize many of the different things mentioned in the blog. The lack of reading important messages, the slow rolling responses on important topics, the disregard of putting things on the calendar, the refusal to pay expenses and better yet, his manipulative responses were now in writing.
    Had I understood the enormous benefits of using OFW, I would have started ONLY using that platform to communicate years ago.

    If you are someone who has difficulty staying in tone or who receives very manipulative responses that make you emotional, I highly recommend researching yellow rock for how to respond.

  2. Jill Swing says:

    There are so many ways to communicate these days: email, texts, various messaging apps, etc. It’s easy for important communications to get lost in the shuffle. When used efficiently, OFW can be a great tool for streamlining communications between parties.

    There are always two sides to every story, and the truth typically lies somewhere in the middle. OFW’s ability to capture and document communications helps take the guess work out of communications, reducing misunderstandings and misinterpretations that can occur as parents are trying to navigate the many challenges of co-parenting.

    The shared calendar is a lifesaver for busy families. It has the ability to create and share events so parents can stay on top of all their responsibilities and ensure that everyone is on the same page, while having documentation features not available on typical shared calendars such as Google calendar.

    Even if you are in a co-parenting situation that is congenial, you may want to consider converting communications to OFW for the documentation features, alone. You never know when this type of documentation may become necessary.

  3. David Parks says:

    For text and call logs, download a backup app. The one I use saves as xml. Right click, open with Excel. This will give you every text message in a compact form date and time stamped to the second.

    Color code by sender. Use Excel’s search to quickly find smoking guns.

    Sort and subtotal number of contacts by person, lengths of total voice calls. That can give strong clues to alienation and closeness of relationships.

    1. Easy to manipulate that data and harder to authenticate.

  4. Jon Freed says:

    To see your OFW calendar in your regular calendar (iCal, Outlook, Google Calendar), check out this:

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