06 - Michael Daniels on the FAYR app, Gwyneth Paltrow's mentorship, and streamlining co-parenting
The groundbreaking FAYR co-parenting app is taking off due to the dedicated efforts of its founder Michael Daniels and its senior advisor Gwyneth Paltrow to improve the lives of co-parents and children.
The challenges of co-parenting can be overwhelming and can lead to significant conflicts. Michael Daniels came up with the idea of creating an app for co-parents to help them effectively manage their time, their finances, and their co-parenting communication. FAYR is a groundbreaking app that simplifies everyday matters for divorced and separated parents.
Sometimes the challenges of co-parenting can be overwhelming, this can cause stress to the co-parents and can eventually lead to major conflicts. This is one of the reasons why Michael Daniels, came up with the idea of creating an app for co-parents to help them effectively manage their time, their finances, and their family. Fayr is a groundbreaking parenting app that simplifies everyday matters for divorced and separated parents.
As a separated father of two young children, Michael found himself overwhelmed by the legal, financial and emotional costs of divorce on his family. After 20 years in the homebuilding industry, Michael hung up his hard hat to create a tool that would not just improve his family’s life, but would also help the other 55 million divorced co-parents in the US. Despite his success on the Apple tv show "Planet of the Apps" and partnering with Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael's guiding light remains the same: working everyday to be his best self for his kids.
Your host, Christina Vinters, is a nationally designated Chartered Mediator on a mission to inspire and facilitate healthy family transitions. She is an “ex” Divorce Lawyer (Non-Practicing Member of the Bar), Author of Pathways to Amicable Divorce, and the DIY Divorce Manual, and Peacemaking Business Consultant.
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Christina: Hello and welcome! I'm super excited today to be talking to Michael Daniels. Michael is the founder and CEO of the new Fayr app (spelled F-a-y-r), and it's a groundbreaking app that streamlines key aspect of family management for divorced parents. That includes sharing a parenting temp calendar, tracking shared expenses, recording communication, and more, all in one location. Fayr debuted really in 2017 and drew interests from Apple TV, who invited him to audition for the reality series "Planet of the Apps". Michael was selected for the show and he had huge success, securing a partnership with his now head adviser Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth is well-known as an academy-award winning actress of course, but she's also an active entrepreneur, with a highly successful lifestyle brand goop.com. She's a passionate voice for improving the experience of divorce for families and drew a lot of media criticism a few years ago for her announcement that she and her husband were consciously uncoupling. It's so exciting to see Michael and Gwyneth working ways to make life easier for co-parents, which is going to make a healthy and respectful divorce achievable for more and more families. Check out this interview with Michael to find out all the things that Fayr can do and how it can make your life better. Alright, let's hop in.
Christina: Welcome Michael thank you so much for being here with me today!
Michael: Thank you for having me, Christina.
Christina: I'm really excited to talk to you because of the super positive project that you got involved with to help co-parents do a better job. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got inspired to create the Fayr app?
Michael: Well, I would say my background can't be any further from this subject, I'm a home builder, I mean, I started building homes when I was a teenager, just an able-bodied worker. Later on, I went to work for the largest homebuilder in America and worked for them 6 years before going out on my own to become a custom home builder. And you know, like everybody else a lot of people go through divorces and it was just a very trying period for me. Family is important for me, I come from a military family and my father was an army officer for 30 years or so and you know traveling around a lot, family was always just important - we're always together. And I would say that that had a lot to do with feeling my interest in trying to do what I could for my kids and so, yeah, that being my background, I think it all really fed into my interest to communicate better, be as much a part of my children's lives and in a positive way.
Christina: Well, the fact that you're outside of the standard legal divorce industry gives you a whole new perspective, I think what the industry needs.
Michael: I think I relay to people really well, I find that the people I feel most comfortable and most effective in communicating with are just the regular people. I kinda leave it up to my team, they kinda do a better job than communicating with the professionals in this industry.
Christina: And so how did you get inspired to create the app? What was the thinking behind that?
Michael: What was the ah-ha moment?
Michael: Well you know, it's a culmination of a lot of things. You go through like these unexpected things can happen at any point. And so you get divorced, and then as the time goes on, the whole process was just tremendously arduous when you think about the two years it takes before from separation to finally getting through things, you fight over custody stuff, you know, whole bunch of money spent, and this is the measurable process and then when it's done and when you finally sign your parenting agreement, you think everything's gonna be okay but it's not. Emotions pop up, and next end, like you know, 6 more years went by and it's still not at rest. And so you never know when you're gonna be caught with this need to go back to court. And are you documented? Most people lose, not because they're bad parents, but because they're insufficiently documented. And I did, it's not fun to reconcile with laws all the time, and I would have to reconcile these laws every night and just miserable way to live thinking about this stuff constantly and so. Then you go to court and then the other person can very well say, "well you made that up". And there's really no way to prove anything, you know. You can't verify some of this stuff. So I thought to myself, "if there was something that could just galvanize, Google docs, Google calendar, your emails, Google spreadsheet, all of these things that I was happy to use constantly, text messages and everything, have it wrapped up and a one app - specifically like a go-to resource just for co-parents to either co-parent together or just document, just to avoid mitigate future problems. Assuming that was it, it was just a culmination of many years of these things and I just one day started looking into this. I mean, if nothing else, it's gonna help my life and probably help a lot of other people too.
Christina: Okay. So I think this sounds like a good place for you to tell us a little bit about what the app does.That sounds pretty cool, the calendar and Google docs and so forth. All of that being rolled into one. What does the app do, and I'm wondering you mentioned that you can either use it together for co-parenting or it sounds like you can just also use it on your own? You don't need the cooperation of the other if you're just looking for documentation?
Michael: Yeah absolutely. I mean it's basically an all-in-one digital ledger for child custody. So it's just the place you can go to let's say for example, things that parents run into. Let's face it, and I say this sometimes because I don't think people are very conscious of this, is that there's no other area in life that you can be in a simple lawsuit with another human being and you're forced to continue communicating with that person for years to come, you know. So it's a very stressful situation but the importance of communicating constructively with that person is paramount. And so how do you bridge this problem between the necessity for the benefit of the children (in my case 2 children) that you love the most in life, and then you have this horribly frustrating situation where you don't communicate well because you were in a very bitter, emotionally, hard suit with this person. Because that what these things are - they're lawsuits. So anyway, I thought, what the app can do for you is let's take the calendar feature for example. It's color-coded so mom stays in one color, dad stays on another color, you put in your time-sharing agreement. And then if you need to switch a day, you can just let your day request just a fourth of the day to the other parent. The other parent instantly gets a notification saying "oh, Bill wants to forth his day to you". You can either accept or deny. If you accept it, it changes to your color, and it doesn't switch back to his color unless you release it again. But that way, if anything doesn't rise, your building this incontestable audit trail of information as life is happening. And that's just the calendar feature. But, it just streamlines things to where it's sending a new notification, it's letting you know when soccer is, you can set it up front where repeat this for the next six months every Tuesdays and Thursdays. And then every other year switch your Christmases, so everything's put in upfront and then it's just laid out for you. No more arguing, no more disputes over this particular issue. And I just wanted to simplify, take out all the arguing that goes on. And then the next feature, let's talk about expenses for example. I mean, people are very good about keeping a mental inventory of their own contributions for their children. But there's seldom real knowledge what the other person is doing. And no one's very good about keeping receipts, and no one's very good about all of the things that we have to juggle. And when your attorney tells you, "Hey, Friday I need all these stuff", it is terrible to have to start digging all that up and reconstruct that audit trail information. I had to call two different banks. my insurance company, doctor's offices, and dentist offices have reprint stuff and just have to dig it up and I'm sure there's still stuff missing. And if you dump it all at your attorney's office and your paralegal, just put it in a court-ready format, you know. That's costed you per hour. So it just all gets very expensive, I mean, I just spent nearly sixty thousand dollars in total on all these legal fees. And you think about what that could have done for what I have for my children. Anyways, the point is with this app, as things are happening I don't have to keep receipts anymore, buy something and I simply snap a picture of the receipt - it's there, it's recorded. Then I plug it all in, and that's it. She can see it instantly, she can see everything that was purchased. Right now it's four categories and I'm about to expand that. So I called them involuntary expenses, it's either your medical, your dental, your personal or educational. And some of these things are tax-deductible. So the app also know which are tax-deductible, and at the end of the year, you can just say "give me my tax-deductible report", and it'll give you everything you've spent on your kids that you can deduct from your taxes as well. So just organizes everything, you don't have to save any more paper, and that's really beneficial. And again, at a glance now, both parents can see what's happened, and shortly you'll be able to settle up with each other within the app. You can just say, "okay I'm gonna settle up". You click the button and automatically transfers money to the other parent. You can pay child's support alimony, everything's gonna be able to be documented paid right thru the app.
Christina: Oh that will be handy.
Michael: Yeah it will be great. And you can set it again. I want to make a co-parenting app that just lets you co-parent on autopilot. So yes you may do some work upfront, plugin all the stuff in. But once it's in, from then on out its just small little adjustments, here and there, as life is going on and you still make adjustments. But for the most part, you're just gonna get these "just go through life and things are gonna be nice and easy". So the next feature is my Geo pen points. The reason I have these is 'cause there are a lot of hidden cases where you're supposed to be somewhere but timely dropoffs or pickups, and there are court orders a lot of times, and to prove that you were there on time is an important thing. So with this feature, you can show up, you can simply say "I want to check in" and you log yourself and there it is - a time, date and stamp that you were on the planet in that spot at that time. So there's just no more he-said-she-said when you go to court. It's just you're good. You know you can prove that you were there. That prevents people from using children as chess pieces. And then the last feature that we currently have is our invisible text messaging. So every lawyer tells you, communicate email, 'cause emails are invisible in court, text messages are not. Well, with these, you have the best of both worlds. You have the ease of text messaging with the invisibility of email. It works just like the IOS messaging, super easy. And at any time you can just say "I wanna generate a report", and all of this stuff, every single day you had them the percentages, everything from whatever time, period you want to look at, just be instantly printed out in a PDF or Excel format. And there you go. Shortly though, right out just the two parents that can be on it, they are onboarded on in the system but shortly you'll be able to have third-party users for this login, to actually grow our user base tremendously. But you can have grandparents who are involved, step-parents, aunts, uncles, legal professionals, they'll have an interface too if they need to monitor just make a guardian light them for example. It's just gonna make everything much more simple, much more honest and fair - that's the name of the app, it's "Fair". It stands for Family, Advocacy, Your Responsibility, just to help make things easier that is in a very difficult situation.
Christina: Sounds like it's streamlining a lot, saving a lot of time, and kind of peel back and take away some of the emotion out of the communication? I'm wondering if for example if we go back to the Calendar, and your request to switch a day, is that just very black and white like that or you switch it where you make the request, or do you have the ability for example to say, you know I have to work late next week.
Michael: Every single one of these functions - I know I'm just doing kind of a brief over if you're here, but if you select to switch, it actually requests you know, give a reason. You have to write a reason in so that it's notified "hey I'm working late" and you can put notes down there. So when this is printed off in the main report, it'll show that on Saturday, at 4:36 PM, you requested a fourth of the day, the notification was sent, it was accepted at this time, so the whole record is there for a judge or anybody to look at and they'll know exactly what happened, and the notes will be attached there too. "Oh I've forth of the day because I have to be here or this happens", so the communication is there, let's face it, six months from now I'm not gonna remember why I'm not gonna remember what happened. So, I've definitely thought all of that, I wanted to make this thing just as useful for people and just take out the anxiety that we go through later on.
Christina: It sounds like some of these features might tend to actually encourage, better behaviors, so I'm wondering if, by using this app, maybe court applications are actually reduced or eliminated in some cases, what kind of feedback have you received?
Michael: I mean I know from my own personal experience that it definitely mitigates problems that usually escalates to costly, you know court motions, and look you know, that's what we all want. I mean, our family courts... you correct me if I'm wrong I know you're more of a guru on this than I am but they're the most backed up courts in America, I mean that's why in some places it's up to three years, backlogs. So, hey if we can reduce problems and keep some money in some families pockets cause you know, it's they're sad statistics you know. I think most people know this what's sad is that you don't go in any sort of parenting tutorials. I don't know if they do this everywhere, but here in Florida, when you go and get divorce they make you take an online little... watch all these videos and take retention quizzes, and things like this that educate you in parenting, it's like "Man I wish I did this before when I became a parent." And then of course in this process just learning more about the effects of these two home situations on children nationally, it's pretty scary. I mean when you look at some of the statistics out there, and I'm not saying the answer is people should stay together cause I'm a firm believer that a lot of people if they're properly communicating it's a better situation for kids, for two people who don't like each other to not stay together. But the statistics actually show that if your kid is being raised in a broken home, they are twice as likely to drop out of high school, they're four times as likely to go to prison, twice as likely to actually attempt suicide. They're medicated for things like depression and anxiety and insecurities. They suffer from speech defects, asthma, and headaches at a higher rate. And I don't know what, I'm sure there's a lot of things that contribute to those statistics but, I think that kids growing up feeling that their parents are butting heads all the time, that can't help but believe that that causes some emotional duress on them.
Christina: Oh absolutely, I think a lot of the studies have shown that it is the conflict that occurs in separation, not so much the separation itself, but that exposure to conflict between parents that's really traumatic for kids.
Christina: This app, I think has huge potential and you've already had a really exciting launch this summer, tell us a little bit about the Planets of the apps show that you're on. Some of our listeners might not be familiar with that. So what that was all about and what your experience is like there?
Michael: That was pretty phenomenal the whole experience honestly, I was.. it was July 4th, 2016 and I was at my cousin's boat. And I'm kicking around this idea of building this app. So I priced it out and you know it was gonna be quite a bit of money, and I'm like "Man do i do that or I'm not... this a lot of things I can do with that kind of money " and he said "You know Mike, it's something that's.." he's like "I've been listening to you for 8 years complain about all the things you go through" you know he's like.. "I think it's a good place to direct your energy and you gotta be passionate about something in life and you're really passionate about this" so I said, Okay I'm gonna go and pull the trigger. So 2 days later I put my deposit down, I started building it. And fortunately I did, cause if I had waited four days, I would've missed the window to be considered for Planet of the Apps. And it was very fortunate, and I didn't know they started with nearly 10,000 applicants and they narrowed us down to about, I guess about 80 of us that made it. And then of the 80, I mean less of a third of that made it to the final round, that I did.
So it was really exciting cause I'm not an app builder, I mean I got out there and I was just overwhelmed by all these crazy smart people, I mean they cruise at that intellectual stratosphere that I can't look at from the ground binoculars, it's super smart people out there. And anyway, it's a good experience, so I go out on Planet of the apps, and we're filming this thing and I was lucky enough to have all four of the panelists there, you know Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will i.am, and Gary Vaynerchuk, all four of them wanted to partner with me, and I think I was one of the only ones who have that. And super exciting, and again my app that time was just a concept, it was a Beta, it had to be in Beta but it was far from being in the app store. Far. So I ended up choosing Gwyneth, and I chose Gwyneth because, one she's the only person who'd gone through a divorce, two you know this is a subject she's very passionate about, and you know the whole conscious of coupling that you've referred to as well. She gets it, and that's an important thing. I think I'd go through life and I think most people listening would probably agree that you just run into people especially when you're back out in the dating world, and you meet people who just don't get it. Unless you've been through it, it's something that kinda connects people. My dad was an army guy, so I kinda equate it to people who had gone to war, and you just talk to another guy and they just get it, you know. So anyway, I partnered with her, we met many times, we corresponded, we still correspond via email. And she's just been very very supportive, that I mean I'm about to launch Android and when android launches at the end of this month, I'll be re-engaging her efforts to get, start tweeting about it again. She's tweeted for me in the past and that's very helpful, I always get a good spike in downloads when she does that. And hey you know, it was a phenomenal experience, I gotta tell you I feel very lucky and I'm very happy that I have somebody like her who isn't just... she's not just bottom line focused like a lot of people are, who are just like "So how much money is this gonna make?" She's more concerned like when we met, it's like "is this gonna help people? Let's just focus on helping people and everything else will take care of itself." And I like that, I really really appreciate that.
Christina: Yeah for sure, I can see that in addition to her acting career she, of course, has the eCommerce lifestyle brand goop.com, which is also focused on having a great lifestyle, and you know the various different aspects of that, so having a positive co-parenting relationship I can see that would sort of fit in to that. Yeah, and she did have that very high profile divorce a few years ago, where the media was quite nasty towards her. I found it to be really discouraging that the intention and the desire to have an amicable divorce would be considered by the general media as being sort of a ridiculous goal to have or you know, just something the general public could aspire to.
So I love that she's putting up her energy behind this with you.
Michael: I think she's such a gracious person, I think Gwyneth is a really, you can just see it like when you're talking to her that she's really, you'll never know, you know I mean most of the media unfortunately for her, they portrayed her in any way that they want to, and they could do that with anyone, they could do that with you, me, anybody they wanted to. And I think it's unfortunate cause it's a "yeah you got your head in these clouds if you think people can do this amicably". But she's, you know, she's told me that she has a better relationship now with her ex-husband Chris, than ever before! She says "you know we have the best relationship we've ever had!" and that speaks volumes to her because that takes work. That takes a real concerted effort to just be able to say that, and to have done that cause she's doing better than I am, you know I mean like.. most people just don't do that well, with that. And I think most people like she said like most people get caught up in trying to be right... I'm right, I'm right. But it's like, it's not about being right, it's about being effective. Let's be effective for the benefit of our kids, let's not worry about being right. I listen to that, cause I'm.. just one of these guys who just want to be right. You know, I wanna win the argument. But you know, I got some maturing to do as well, you know.
Christina: You've done some learning over the years. So in what circumstances do you see the app as being useful? Is this something you can see rolling out to most separating couples?
Michael: Oh my goodness. I gotta tell you, I think married people should use this. I mean, let's face it, the number one reason above infidelity and religion - it's funny as it is, and if people would use this app, 'cause so many times, you know in today's world, and this isn't 40 years ago, but today's world, not our parents' generation, but you have 2 separate incomes, 2 separate bank accounts, and 1 person oftentimes paying the lion share of the expenses, and the other person's dropping it on a Harley Davidson or something like this just toys, and that becomes a point when things get tough. That becomes a real point of contention in a relationship. And so, I just think that anybody should. But obviously, that's a little lofty when you think that much married people are gonna jump on it. But, I gotta tell you, I see it ideally if two people can co-parent constructively together, it is a great platform for that. But if not, man do yourself a huge favor, use it because it is so much easier to just stay on top of things that document now than try to dig up those receipts later on. And you never do it, you never end up doing it, in fact, most attorneys tell me "I'm so frustrated with my clients because I tell them document... document and they just don't do it, and then inevitably they lose, and you know, that sucks".
Christina: Well there's so many things going on in life where you're separating trend to figure out where you're gonna live, maybe do you need to change your job, how are your children doing, and so the documentation just falls through the cracks. It's not high on the priority list, even though the lawyers might like it to pay.
Michael: Yeah exactly. You've got life happening. And let's face it, it's not a fun thing to do. It is just the whole time you do it. You just dread it. It's not fun, I mean, and most people aren't organized with a lot of that stuff, so I just try to make it as easy as possible. And I think Fayr has a sincere effort at accomplishing that.
Christina: So having been divorced yourself and now being part of this industry trying to improve the experience for separating couples, do you have any advice? For couples who are in the process right now?
Michael: Yeah I do, and it would be, you know it's tough because as you know, once you're years passed it you look back, and it's just like don't live with regrets. Really, really try to power through the nasty things that you kind of do, the unfair things that you do, because you're gonna regret the impact that it has on your kids later on because you wanna be the best you, you wanna be the best version of yourself for your kids. And the only way you're gonna be able to do that is just suck out the poison and they always say, you know, it's not the snake bite that kills you, it's chasing the snake that sends the venom to the heart that kills you. So just don't chase things. Just like what Gwyneth said, "don't worry about being right, just be effective and just be fair." I don't know, it feels like it's so easy to say, it feels like a cliche, it's like to put myself in that position back then, and I would say, "man, what the heck", he doesn't know what he's talking about. He isn't in my situation but, that's so I could tell parents it's just really trying to be fair with one another, 'cause it just hurts your kids when you're not.
Christina: I think that's excellent advice. For people who are interested in trying out the app, what's the best way to contact you or to get a hold of the app?
Michael : Yeah, so we're obviously on Facebook, Fayr. On Twitter, it's Fayr Dad, and on Instagram we're @BeFayr. www.fayr.com. We have a lot of great information out there, you can google me as well, Michael Daniels Fayr, and you'll see up just a bunch of plan of the apps stuff, videos. We've been in the news all over the place even in England and Germany, actually. We got a lot of exciting things happening. Fayr is doing great and we're gonna keep growing it as 55 million people across America who are living in a sort of two-home situation raising kids co-parenting, and I'm gonna keep marching forward and helping every one of them out that I can.
Christina: And right now you said Fayr is available on the Apple App Store?
Michael: Yes it is available in the App Store, that's Apple. And in another 2 weeks, it will be available for Android. Sorry Android has taken so long but we're constantly improving things and that's just more development time.
Christina: So for people who are not hearing this at the time of the original release, that will be around the end of November 2017. Okay Michael well thank you so much for your contribution to improving the lives of co-parents and kids out there.
Michael: Christina thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it being here.
Christina: And a pleasure talking to you.