Post-Separation Co-parenting Apps: Can they help families avoid conflict?

Post-Separation Co-parenting Apps: Can they help families avoid conflict?

Research Context

The rapid growth in digital technology over the last decade has led to a prolific range of smartphone apps. A large number are marketed specifically to separated parents in Australia. Many are designed to facilitate communication between separated parents, as well as to aid with organisation, financial management and/or legal proceedings. How do separated parents know which app might best suit their circumstances, needs and budget, and which apps could pose risks for themselves or their children?

The wellbeing of children is at the heart of this project. There is a solid body of evidence to suggest that the interests of children post-separation are generally best served when parents can cooperate and communicate with low levels of conflict. Apps may have the capacity to reduce conflict and improve outcomes for parents and children, but they may also have the capacity to exacerbate relationship conflict – and it may be that an app that works for one family doesn’t work for another.

Research Aims

The objective of this 2-year study is to help separated parents and family law professionals make evidence-informed decisions about which smartphone app or app feature(s) will help maximise positive communication and/or minimise opportunities for conflict for different family types and situations.

Research Stages

Stage 1 – Practitioner survey: the first component of this study is an online survey of family law practitioners. This survey will provide insight into professionals’ levels of knowledge and experience of mainstream apps, as well as any benefits or harms they have observed or anticipate with their clients. This survey will run during August and September 2021. More info for participants of the practitioner survey.

Stage 2 – App rating: the second component of the research is an in-depth analysis of the most frequently used apps. This will be undertaken by mediator pairs who have comprehensive knowledge of the common, complex issues that separated parents and their children face – particularly those experiencing high conflict.

Stage 3 – User-experience survey: The third component of research will comprise an online survey for separated parents who are currently or have previously used a particular post-separation parenting app. This survey will be designed to capture the real-world experiences of app use. More info for participants of the User survey.

Research Outcomes:

Tool: The main aim of this project is to provide a free, web-based tool that parents and practitioners can use to help them make informed decisions about which apps may or may not best suit their respective needs. The tool will be available in 2023.

Publications: Findings from the three arms of this research will be published in academic journals and conference papers. Links to all outputs will appear on this page as they emerge.

Research team:

The research is being conducted by:

  • Professor Bruce Smyth, Australian National University (Chief Investigator)
  • Professor Jason Payne, University of Wollongong (Chief Investigator)
  • Dr Genevieve Heard, Relationships Australia Victoria (Partner Investigator)
  • Dr Glenn Althor, Relationships Australia Canberra and Regions (Partner Investigator)
  • Michelle Irving, Australian National University (Senior Research Officer)

Contact:

If you have any questions about this project please contact Prof Bruce Smyth:

Email: bruce.smyth@anu.edu.au

Telephone: 1800 702 927 (free call from landline within Australia).

New Zealand based parties who would like to make contact over the phone are welcome to email Prof Smyth with their contact details and he will return their call (in order to avoid incurring any cost to them).

Funding:

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council (LP 200100413) and Relationships Australia – Victoria, Canberra & Regions

Information for participants of the practitioner survey

About the survey

A large number of smartphone apps are marketed specifically to separated parents in Australia. Many apps seek to facilitate communication, organisation, financial management and/or legal proceedings, but how do separated parents know which one might best suit their circumstances, needs and budget and which apps could pose risks for them or their children?

The first component of this study is an online survey of family law practitioners. This survey will provide insight into their levels of knowledge and experience of mainstream apps, as well as any benefits or harms they have observed or anticipate with their clients (separated parents).

Participating practitioners will be asked to complete an online survey about their experience, knowledge, attitudes, and understanding of post-separation coparenting smartphone apps.

Who is running this research?

This research is being run out of the ANU and led by Professors Bruce Smyth (ANU’s Centre for Social Research Methods) and Jason Payne (University of Wollongong). Our Partner Investigators are Dr Genevieve Heard and Dr Glenn Althor from Relationships Australia (RA Victoria, and RA Canberra and Regions).

Who is running this research?

The study is funded by the Australian Research Council (LP200100413).

Who is invited to participate?

We anticipate that the participants will comprise mediators, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners, family lawyers, Independent Children’s Lawyers, Barristers, Judges, Mental Health professionals and others.

How long will the survey take?

The survey should take no more than 12-15 minutes.

Is participation voluntary?

Yes, participation in this project is voluntary. Participants may decline to take part, refuse to answer any question, or withdraw from the research at any time during the survey.

Is my information treated as confidential?

Yes. No identifying information (e.g., names, positions, etc) will be collected (the survey is anonymous). All information will be treated in strict confidence as far as allowed by law.

How do we ensure your privacy is protected?

In collecting your personal information within this research, the ANU must comply with the Privacy Act 1988. The ANU Privacy Policy is available at https://policies.anu.edu.au/ppl/document/ANUP_010007 and it contains information about how a person can:

  • Access or seek correction to their personal information;
  • Complain about a breach of an Australian Privacy Principle by ANU, and how ANU will handle the complaint

Why participate?

There is increasing app availability, awareness and potentially pressure on professionals to recommend one or more apps to separated parents. This survey will provide valuable insight into practitioners’ knowledge and use of coparenting apps. This information will support family law practitioners to make evidence-based recommendations to their clients.

Where can I get more information?

If you would like more information please contact the Chief Investigator, Professor Bruce Smyth (ANU):

Email: bruce.smyth@anu.edu.au or phone

Telephone: 1800 702 927 (free call from landline within Australia).

New Zealand based participants who would like to make contact over phone are welcome to email Prof Smyth with their contact details and he will return their call (in order to avoid incurring any cost to them).

Information for participants of the User survey

The User Survey will be in the field mid 2022. More information on the survey can be found in the Participant Information Sheet. If you have any questions, or are interested in participating, please contact Prof Smyth.

Email: bruce.smyth@anu.edu.au or phone

Telephone: 1800 702 927 (free call from landline within Australia).”

Updated:  20 May 2022/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications