Getting divorced? There's an app for that
When you think of how apps have influenced modern love and relationships, you normally think of dating apps, like Tinder and Bumble.
But what about using an app to manage what comes after that original introduction? Sometimes, quite a long time after.
Divvito CEO and co-founder Wendy Oxenham. Photo: Supplied
Divvito is an app for divorcees with shared children.
Developed by a Brisbane tech start-up, the app aims to help parents to communicate more thoughtfully, by bringing the benefits of email to instant messaging.
The app flags when a message uses inflammatory language, and delays the sending of those messages so they have time to revise the message. The length of delay depends on the perceived hurtfulness of the message.
If they do not revise the message, the app replaces the harsh words with a less intense alternative. For example, instead of calling your ex a "d---head", you may call them a "popcorn-head", a word swap Divvito CEO and co-founder Wendy Oxenham says will communicate you are not pleased with your ex-partner, but not necessarily cause hurt.
"We've developed an algorithm that looks for words and messages which could be perceived as harmful, or which could be received poorly by the other parent," she says.
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"Parents are human, we feel emotions and express emotions, but we just want to make sure they aren't harmful."
The app also organises messages into separate "conversations" (for children's sports, school pick-ups, family events etc.), a feature Oxenham says she understood the importance of after going through her own divorce.
"We were missing things and forgetting things: things were going between work emails, personal emails, text messages," she says.
"That mess and disorganisation is sometimes what causes the frustration."
Relationships Australia counsellor Jennifer Douglas says that, while she thinks the app would be useful to those co-parenting after separation, no piece of technology will be able to make people co-parent successfully if they are not in the right mindset.
"In the end it is absolutely about the intention of the parents and if they have a desire to act in the best interest of their kids and build an alliance together. And, if they come to the app with that, that's great, but if they don't there's probably a limit on what an app can do."
In addition, Divvito does not reveal the contents of messages in push notifications, meaning parents only access communication from their ex intentionally (i.e. by opening the app) and children are not inadvertently exposed to conflict.
While Douglas says there can be a danger in "completely" cutting children out of their parents' communication after a divorce, there is overwhelming evidence that limiting their exposure to conflict is beneficial.
"I do hold the view, and it's well supported in the research, that children's exposure to high levels of conflict can be extremely damaging and can lead children into really unhelpful loyalty binds and make them feel responsible for their parents."