A divorce is never easy, but if you have children, it’s not only your heart that’s breaking. It’s where Brisbane-based Wendy Oxenham found herself a few years ago, and it was complicated – to say the least.
“It was, by all standards, positive compared to most. We were both active parents and eager to minimise the impact to our children, yet co-parenting predominantly occurs via text and email, and that’s complicated,” says Wendy.
“School swimming carnival, the new music lesson book, soccer registration, new school shoes, the new mobile phone for my eldest daughter – these are the things you need to discuss, and that’s just in one week!”
Wendy has calculated that she’s sent more than 5,000 messages to her ex-husband, over a number of different platforms, in the last five years. It would be hard to keep up and easy to lose track for anyone, but in a divorce where emotions are high, it can become a bigger issue.
“When you talk to parents after a relationship breakdown, it’s clear they just want to be understood and know what to do. Deep down, they want to do the right thing, but sometimes negative emotions cloud their judgment,” she shares.
Enter Wendy’s big idea: Divvito, a messaging app that “provides a neutral platform for parents to communicate and collaborate around the shared care of their children.”
The app, an instant messaging tool, is designed especially for co-parents, providing one dedicated, private space where co-parents can keep conversations organised by topic.
It isn’t the magic wand to make the emotional pain go away, the app’s co-founder and CEO stresses, but it can make it as easy as possible to share information.
Staying on topic
The most charming part of Divvito is Dani, the AI behind the app.
“She helps parents get connected and is there to help them use Divvito in the most effective way possible,” explains Wendy.
Dani provides an upbeat, friendly voice in the midst of conversation that is potentially anything but. From telling little jokes, to picking up potentially negative language, Dani teaches co-parents to communicate effectively, keeping communication centred on the children.
But the best part of Divvito is Dani’s ability to detect potentially heated exchanges, advising and allowing messages to be revised before they’re sent.
“I met so many separated parents since [my divorce] and the stories they shared were heartbreaking. I could feel their anguish when they weren’t getting along with their ex-partner. Communication around the shared care of the kids was the constant issue,” she says.
For Wendy, the messages across work email, personal email, and text messages made her feel disorganised, and while she was able to pick up the phone and chat when there was a misunderstanding, she acknowledges that many don’t co-parents don’t have that option.
Tell everybody your idea
Of course, building a startup on the basis of such a personal experience wasn’t easy. As a single parent, working full-time, she spent nights and weekends when she didn’t have her children, “researching, listening to podcasts, reading books, and talking to parents to find the problems she was trying to solve.”
“Did I waste time and make mistakes? Absolutely! But you can’t just give up,” she says.
For Wendy and the team at Divvito, the most important lesson she’s learned so far has been to get out there and “talk to others who have travelled the same path.”
“Don’t waste your time and money starting from scratch. Tell everybody your idea. No-one is going to steal it, and you can learn so much from pitching your strategy over and over. If people look befuddled, find out why!”
The Divvito messenger app is now available in the Apple iTunes and Google Play app stores. Visit divvito.com