Technophobes grumble that smartphones and social media have made communication too cold and impersonal. When it comes to divorce, taking all the emotion out is probably a good thing. Melbourne startup DivorceRight, for example, has turned divorce proceedings into a process that can be completed without much hassle online. Now Perth startup Famylia has created an online platform to help separated parents effectively co-parent their children.
Cofounded by lawyer and divorce mediator Lacy Gow and her husband Gordon Gow, soon-to-launch Famylia is a secure online hub that aims to reduce unnecessary conflict between separated or divorced parents by focusing all communication on the child. As well as opening communication channels, the platform allows for parents to schedule all things related to their children and, for parents in high conflict relationships, Famylia acts as an intermediary, monitoring all posts between parents and ‘translates’ messages to be more child-focused without any abusive or negative language.
Gow described the platform as “Slack for raising your children”, with the idea came for it through her work, where she saw daily the challenges faced by separated parents.
“Especially in high conflict cases involving third parties or where family domestic violence is present, I was stunned that parents’ options in Australia are only face to face, text, email, or a physical communication journal that travels between the children. In very extreme cases, hiring a lawyer as a third party intermediary is extremely expensive as a long term solution,” Gow said.
“If a violence restraining order is in place, telling the perpetrator to not communicate via text or email unless it is about the children doesn’t seem to be very effective in reducing the instances of abuse received by the victim.”
Famylia works by giving each parent access to their two-way communication platform through a subscription model. The parents make profiles for their children and update content as frequently as they wish, or as often as they have agreed to. This information can include updates on schooling or the child’s emotional or physical well being, and so on.
Parents also have a shared calendar to record care rosters, special events, and extracurricular activities, while parents who share costs for raising the children have the option to upload bills or invoices, and record payments or request portions of payments. All changes made by either parent are captured in an updates log to keep the other parent informed. The last feature of the basic offering is an optional messaging channel that connects one parent – or both – to a third party, such as a lawyer or mediator.
The monitoring and translating service, perhaps one of the most interesting features of the platform, is currently done manually by the Famylia team, with the team currently in talks with a software company to automate the process. Part of a premium subscription, it works by having a post made by a parent on the two-way communication channel held for review, translation, and approval by Famylia.
“The children update tabs capture all relevant information which needs to be shared by the parents and should one parent use it as a platform to abuse, denigrate or harass the other parent, that content is removed and ‘translated’ into a child-focused communication. We don’t recommend high conflict parents using the messaging function,” Gow said.
As well as targeting end users directly, Gow is also hoping to build relationships with third party professionals in the space, such as family law agencies, counsellors, and mediators, who will pay a licensing fee for access to the platform for their clients, while partnerships with not for profits and family relationship centres will see the platform recommended to those who need it.
“We have seen a real sense of excitement from the family support and family law community. We will need to shift how parents think in terms of tools they are used to using for parental communication and co-parenting, but we hope we have hit the nail on the head with all the feedback we have received from parents in the midst of divorce or separation,” Gow said.
There are a number of competitors in the space, both locally and globally. Launched a few years ago, Our Children Australia offers the same type of services as Famylia and additional features including communication training and gift exchanges, while international player 2houses has almost 52,000 families on its platform across 103 countries. However, no existing players have exactly cornered the market – in fact, it’s a fair bet that most of the market doesn’t know that such platforms exist. As such, building partnerships with professionals in the space and educating the market about the platform through them will be key to Famylia’s growth.
With the platform set to launch next month, Gow expects that Famylia will be active on both the west and east coasts of Australia by mid-2016. Having bootstrapped its development so far, she hopes to complete a capital raise by the end of the year to build out the team locally, before focusing on breaking into the US and UK markets next year.
Image: Lacy Gow. Source: Provided.