Using Free Online Tools to Manage Shared Custody

When you live away from your kids and the custodial parent, exchanging checks or eyeballing the same physical document is not possible. Fortunately for us, these days, the internet hosts a variety of free online tools that allow you to do just that.

There are a plethora of paid shared custody tool websites, which I will cover in a later post. However, there are ways to manage these tasks really simply, for free, and maybe even using tools that you already use.

Paypal

When parents don’t live close together, handing the custodial parent a child support check every month isn’t an option. Or when your child has an unexpected ER visit, it might not be feasible for the custodial parent to wait a week to receive your part of the medical expenses and for the check to clear their bank.

Paypal is quick, reliable and easy. Once your account is set up (which can be a rather lengthy process, if you don’t already use paypal), you can send money to anyone who has a paypal account – ie: the custodial parent, hopefully.

Best of all, it records every transaction that you can easily report on. No more hanging on to receipts,check stubs and bank statements in order to prove that you paid your child support on time or that you paid your part of the medical bills.

Google Docs

If you’ve ever had to go through one of those mind numbing conversations or email chains where you say “I paid that.” and they say “No you didnt. That $50 was for such and such.”, referring to a long chain of transactions that are partially shrouded in mysterious claims, you will appreciate the ability to create and share a transaction log.

Google docs allows you to create a spreadsheet or a document that you can access and update anywhere you have internet – and then share it with the other parent.

Try this template for logging expenses. You can download it and save it to your own google docs account. Here’s what it looks like :

On the ‘current’ tab, you log every single transaction that involves both parents… either stuff you paid or expenses you accrue. The grey columns will auto calculate so just fill in whatever other columns apply to that particular transaction. Change mom/dad as appropriate. The ‘confirmation’ field is a field for you to mark that you have proof that the other parent in some way acknowledged that expense or payment (for your records). At the end of the line, it keeps a tally of who owes who what.

When you both owe each other the same amount, it’s safe to ‘zero out’ all of the transactions that lead to that point (unless you intend to both write each other a check for the same amount). To do that, move those lines to the ‘zeroed out’ sheet (2nd tab across the bottom) to get them out of your way.

You can keep that spreadsheet for yourself or share it with the other parent so that they can keep up with the same account of transactions that you’re looking at. You can opt to give them the permission to update it – or just the permission to view it. They don’t have to have a google account to see documents that you have shared with them but it does help.

You could use a similar spreadsheet (maybe even a new sheet in the same workbook to simplify things) to track visitation time.

Evernote

Evernote is brilliant for many reasons… you can put anything there, all of your pdfs are searchable, it’s available online so you can access your stuff anywhere you can access the internet and it’s accessible via an android or iphone app (among many others) but it’s super handy where shared custody is concerned too.

  • Retaining documentation is critical in shared custody cases. Especially in long distance parenting arrangements where there tends to be more difficulty in communication. Although, using your evernote account, you can create notes manually, you can also email anything into your evernote account and it stays there until you delete it. That includes a text email, pictures, pdfs or anything else attached to your email.
  • You also have to be able to find the documents you have carefully retained. Evernote will recognize the text in your pictures and pdfs ad that text will be searchable inside your evernote account. So if you upload or email a picture of a dentist receipt (you can just snap a picture of it on your cell phone instead of having to scan it in) into evernote, you can log into your evernote account and search for it later.
  • You can email documents out to someone else, access them for yourself, organize them or maintain them from anywhere you get internet. That means that if the other parent needs that copy of that receipt that you already sent them four times but they still don’t have it RIGHT when you are on your way to dinner, you COULD access evernote from your phone (from the passenger seat) and send it to them right there. Were you to feel so inclined.

Long distance parenting can be complicated and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be if you use what’s available to develop a system that works for you!

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