Parents who sign up to OFW can use the website as their exclusive means of communication: they can email each other via the website without revealing their personal email address, utilise a contact diary system which enables them to make requests to swap or change arrangements, to notify each other of appointments or events in the child's own diary and even to request and pay for specific items needed by a child. There is space to record all the child's basic information so that it is readily available to both parents (doctor, school, emergency phone no etc). What I think is great is that with parental consent both parties' lawyers and even CAFCASS can be given access to the records of who has said what and when, who has behaved reasonably and who has not, even enabling them to print out reports of activity via the site, including when each parent has logged in.
OFW provided me with several sample orders made by courts in the US, which show that courts there have ordered parents to use this website as their sole means of communication.
For something like £65 per parent per year this is really good value for money when you think of the legal expenses that could potentially be saved. No need to argue about 'he said' 'she said', and a means of communication that is visible to both parties' lawyers is likely to have a calming effect on previously fraught relations. Of course it won't be suitable for all or even many cases, and for many parents even £65 per year is prohibitively expensive (shame legal aid wouldn't pay) but I can see this working really well for some families. Both parents would need to have basic computer literacy, regular access to the internet and be prepared to check in regularly - for US phone networks the site will send a text message to notify if a new message is received, but this is not currently available for UK phone networks.
There are drawbacks - whilst the services are available to parents wherever they are the product is clearly designed for a US market. A UK version would be good - irritating features such as the US mm/dd/yyyy format and financial tools which are not really in tune with the English arrangements for child support are two things which added to the lack of text alerts make this a less than perfect service.
I suspect that the majority of Judges and even lawyers would be initially skeptical about this sort of arrangement, but I do think that in the right case it may have an important part to play. Next time a case crosses my desk that requires something more than a contact book I will seriously consider suggesting the parties consider signing up.