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185 - SupportPay - Enabling Parents to Manage Child Support & Share Expenses – Directly with Each Other

185 - SupportPay - Enabling Parents to Manage Child Support & Share Expenses – Directly with Each Other Image

10/29/2020 2:00 pm

When something comes along that could help our clients, we like to discuss it. This is one of those shows. Erika Englund, the Chief of Strategy for SupportPay, join Leh and Todd to explain how this amazing new App can help co-parents to manage child support and share expenses. It really does simply the process, saves a ton of time, and keeps a fantastic record of all the expenses. Erika didn’t just stop with explaining their App, however. She also dove into the top five mistakes that parents make and how to avoid them.

Transcript

Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Well, Todd, we got a good show today.

Todd Orston: We have a good show every day.

Leh Meriwether: That's true.

Todd Orston: Well, not every day, but yeah. You know what I mean.

Leh Meriwether: Every time we got a good show.

Todd Orston: Absolutely. Absolutely. All right.

Leh Meriwether: One of the things that we've already seen of this year, if there was a positive note to 2020, we've seen how technology can keep things going. It can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but it can keep things going, and in many cases, make our lives better. And I mean, we see a lot with Zoom hearings, I mean, the court system kept going forward with virtual hearings. And I know they've been doing jury trials, but they were doing other hearings to keep things going forward. And recently, we learned about a software that could help people with child support.

Todd Orston: Even make the payments for you and like, you don't...

Leh Meriwether: Well no, it helps you make the payments.

Todd Orston: Oh, okay. All right.

Leh Meriwether: So you ready to talk about the software?

Todd Orston: I am absolutely ready.

Leh Meriwether: Because, to your point, I will say that tools like this where, of course, it's kind of weird for us to say we get excited about this kind of stuff. But the reason we get excited is because, I think I speak for both of us, I can't tell you how many people call us because they have gotten into some level of trouble. And by that, I mean in the context of they've failed to do something they were supposed to do, a contempt has been filed, and oftentimes it's avoidable. It's just a matter of you may not be managing things properly. And a tool, especially a tool like what we're going to be talking about today, can be so incredibly impactful, and what it's going to hopefully do is avoid those problems that drag you back into court and, potentially, open you up to sanctions.

Todd Orston: Just because I wouldn't want people to sanction you for doing a terrible job discussing this great new software platform, I brought on somebody to talk about this platform.

Leh Meriwether: Surprise!

Todd Orston: So with us is Erika Anne Englund, and she is the chief of strategy for SupportPay, the world's only financial platform that manages child support payments, expenses, and reimbursements. She brings a diverse skill set from her professional background as an attorney, mediator, law professor, and private consultant for emerging tech company. Erika has successfully mediated over 5,000 hours of disputes, she's trained litigation attorneys and financial planners in negotiation skills, and she's created the nation's first law school practicum course in ADR career. She is nationally recognized as a leader in the field of cooperative divorce and dispute resolution, and she has been a two-time speaker at the Sacramento Women's Exposition, has been featured in the Washington Post, the Sacramento News & Review, Divorce TV, and the Blended Family podcast. She has two children, ages seven and nine, who provide a welcome opportunity to practice dispute resolution skills on a daily basis. And all of them are currently making clumsy attempts to learn to play the piano. Well, Erika, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Erika Englund: It's lovely to be here with you.

Todd Orston: I'm glad we didn't scare you off with all the technology problems we had getting this show going.

Erika Englund: Not scared at all. I'm fearless with technology these days, so just happy to be here with you. And thanks for that wonderful introduction. I feel much better about myself already.

Leh Meriwether: Maybe not about the piano skills, but yeah, other than that, I think everything was pretty positive.

Erika Englund: The piano skills, it's a crime against music. But we'll get there.

Todd Orston: I first noticed, Erika, your new role through LinkedIn, because you had this hilarious post where, when I was first reading it, I was like, "Did she get a divorce?" What she decided to do is make a change, and take her skill set to help arguably even more people around the country by becoming the chief of strategy for SupportPay. So I really appreciate your writing style. I was really pulled into the article, and it was very well written.

Erika Englund: Well, thank you. But it's exactly how it felt, and for anyone that didn't read that, you can find it on LinkedIn. I discussed my relationship with law as though it were a toxic romantic relationship, and the way we get caught into dysfunctional patterns in those relationships, and how liberating it's been to leave it and to know that the skills that I acquired there are so valuable in another context. That was my cheeky way of announcing to the world that I've got a new position.

Todd Orston: With that door open, go ahead and tell us about SupportPay.

Erika Englund: You are correct, that it is a tool to help manage child support payment and expenses. And you are absolutely correct that we help people prevent exactly the mistakes you have discussed. As a divorce attorney for 15 years, and a divorced parent myself, and I'm sure you've seen this in your office thousands of times, it's so typical that people say, "I just wish I never had to talk to my ex about money again." And SupportPay handles that by managing all of the discussions, negotiations, and exchanges related to child support through an app. So not only does it eliminate the conflict with having to discuss these things back and forth constantly, and if you have children, you know that they constantly cost money. Mine, at least, haven't earned anything yet. They're seven and nine, they're not bringing anything in.

Todd Orston: It's laziness.

Erika Englund: We'll get that piano out on the street soon. But they're constantly costing money. And so when we have children in particular, there are so many exchanges between parents to get reimbursements and expenses and support payments and bonus payments, and so the app really allows all of that to be consolidated into this neutral space that takes away the conflict and keeps absolutely perfect records. For tax reasons or, God forbid, you've got to litigate, you've got all your records perfectly there at the touch of a button. Really an incredible tool.

Todd Orston: And one the things, did I see where, let's say you went to a doctor's office and there was a copay and your child support agreement said that you all are going to split any copays, can you take a picture with your phone of the receipt and send it to your spouse, and ask for reimbursement through the app?

Erika Englund: It's that easy. Scans the receipt, autopopulates it, you verify that it populated it correctly, and it shoots a request over to your spouse, who can either hit pay, or they can dispute it. If they dispute it, it gets set aside from your running total, so that it doesn't interfere with running child support totals. And you, as lawyers, know this can create an accounting nightmare when it does. So, yeah. Scan the receipt, the other parent hits pay or dispute, and they've got that whole situation done between the two of them in under a minute, on the go.

Todd Orston: Wow. So she doesn't have to write an e-mail, or he, doesn't even have to write an e-mail. It's just the app takes care of communicating that information to the other person.

Erika Englund: Yes. Well, it's already difficult to keep track of expenses. It's difficult to talk to our former spouses about money, and our goal is to make this component of the process as straightforward as possible for people.

Todd Orston: It's so powerful on both sides. It's powerful because I can't tell you how many times people call. This week alone, I've had two people call, and they started talking about how, over a period of years, they really haven't made all the necessary requests for reimbursement.

Erika Englund: Yes.

Todd Orston: Just because it was difficult. So this makes it so easy to capture those expenses, and hopefully you can get the reimbursement that you're due. And the flip side, of course, is the other side making sure they know exactly what's due, and then that way they know exactly what to pay. So, I mean, I love the concept. It's great.

Erika Englund: And it's affordable. It's $80 per year per parent. So if you think about one expense that your clients don't get reimbursed, or a 15 minute phone call with your attorney, right there the app has already given you back its value. So it's quite affordable. A word you use so often on the show is proactive. It's one of the best tools to be proactive about managing your financial disputes and arrangements post-divorce.

Todd Orston: Before I forget, because I know I'm going to forget, what's the website real quick?

Erika Englund: Supportpay.com.

Todd Orston: Oh, that's easy.

Erika Englund: All kinds of resources there, not just about our product, but professionals nationwide that are able to assist with divorce processes. We are also launching SupportPay in Spanish this month, and SupportPay Kid, a website that will be designed for parents to sit down together with their children. You get printables, tools, and guidelines for divorce.

Todd Orston: Wow. Hey, when we come back, Erika is going to talk about the five child support mistakes that parents often make, and how to avoid them.

Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that, if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there, as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess.

Leh Meriwether: Right. You can turn on the show, and...

Todd Orston: We'll help you fall sleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Leh. With me is Todd. We're your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com, and you can get transcripts of this show, as well as others, at divorceteamradio.com.

Leh Meriwether: Well, today, we have a special guest, Erika Anne Englund, who's the chief of strategy for SupportPay, and she is telling us, number one, about this amazing new software that she has out there promoting to help anyone who has a child support issue they're dealing with. And then she's also talking about, from her experience as an attorney, a mediator, and the chief of strategy for SupportPay, the five child support mistakes that parents make and how to avoid them.

Leh Meriwether: And before we get to the five mistakes, Erika, did I hear you right? So, the parent that's getting the notification about an expense to pay, they can click pay, does mean, built into the app, they can actually put credit card information in there, so you don't even have to mail a check to the other parent?

Erika Englund: Correct. Yeah, absolutely. Your financial institution is connected, so that you make the payment directly through without logging into a separate app. Just hit the pay button, and the payment is withdrawn on its own. So, not only is this convenient, but you don't have to give any information about your financial institution to your former spouse. They don't have to know where you bank or what your bank account number or your routing number is. Particularly for people that are high-conflict, or for people that have domestic violence disputes, it's a really nice privacy component, in addition to being simple and easy.

Leh Meriwether: Nice.

Todd Orston: I'm going to go so far as to say, this is an incredible powerful tool, especially in a high-conflict case.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: This is the kind of tool that, if you don't want or need to have contact because it's unhealthy.

Leh Meriwether: Right, obviously, in an ideal world, you should be able to communicate with the co-parent. But in a less-than-ideal world where you can't, again, I love the concept because it allows there to be that healthy distance between you and that parent that hopefully will avoid strife.

Erika Englund: Absolutely. We know that the fewer interactions parents have to have, the lower their conflict is. We've got research on that. And so not only is it great for high-conflict parents, but, even for my clients when I mediated that were fairly amicable, they often, in a marriage, had pretty different ideas about how to handle money, and they had disputes. If they centered around anything, their disputes would center around money. So, even for parents that get along fairly well, still, getting a whole bunch of text messages that you haven't paid your half of tuition never sends anybody down a really good path.

Todd Orston: Let's hit the other topics.

Leh Meriwether: So I know that you've got a lot of experience, between being a lawyer, a mediator, even training attorneys and financial planners, and now being the chief of strategy, you've got a nice, short, concise list of the top, or at least five big child support mistakes that you see parents make that can be avoided. So let's get into them. So what's the first one?

Erika Englund: This might surprise you, but the first is not having a child support order. There's about 15% of parents that don't even have anything written down on paper, and have a completely informal arrangement for child support. So not only is this a logistical nightmare when they're trying to track, but both parents, in the future, can be subject to retroactive or back-looking changes of their child support, and they don't have any proof that they were on the same page or that they actually made payments. So even for parents that are really in agreement, not having a child support order is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Or, along the same lines, if you have an order but it hasn't been updated, your life and your circumstances have changed and now you're paying a different amount of support, not updating your order creates those same issues, because what you're doing in life doesn't mirror what happens in your order, and as soon as there's a conflict, the judge looks to the order first.

Erika Englund: So one of the best things parents can do is to look at their order and contact their attorney to make sure that their order is up to date. It's not terribly expensive to update an order if you have one, or to get one in place if you don't have one yet. It's very, very important, looking backwards and going forwards, to make sure that your records and your actions are in alignment.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Another reason why I can see that being really important, speaking on the law here in Georgia, there's something called child abandonment. And if you are not under a child support order, and you have failed to provide material support for a child for a period of time, then basically it opens the door to the party bringing what is a quasi-criminal action, where you are served, have to go to court, put yourself on child support, and if you don't agree, or if you don't cooperate, they can actually bring a criminal charge of child abandonment against you. And using a tool like this, again, even if you're not under a formal order, I can see immense value, because now you have history of providing support.

Erika Englund: Absolutely, and that history is legally admissible evidence, generated by a third party. So incredibly helpful in cases like that.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, because we've seen, time and time again, where you'll have two parents getting along, and one of them has a loss in job and they get a new job where there's been a big pay cut, and the other parent says, "Yeah, go ahead and drop your child support by 400 bucks a month, I'm good with that." And, at the time, they really mean it. But two years goes by, and then that same parent gets mad, and says, "Hey, you owe me back child support for all this time." And they do.

Leh Meriwether: Regardless of the agreement, in Georgia, and I know a lot of states are that way, I don't know about California, but a lot of states say, "You know what? The order is the order, and you had to come back to court to change it, and you didn't, so you owe all this money." So that's a great piece of advice, that you've got to update your child support order to reflect whatever your agreement is.

Erika Englund: And, at the very least, if you can't update it. I listened to your show about COVID and child support, and your listeners have access to your archive of shows on your website, which is a fantastic resource for them. On your COVID shows, you talked about parents making different arrangements during COVID by agreement. This is exactly the tool you could use to keep track of those different arrangements. So in the event that there was a future dispute, and you didn't update your order, at least you could show that the payments were provided and accepted, and you'd have evidence there backing you.

Todd Orston: I was surprised at that statistic of 15% of the arrangements are not put into a court order regarding child support. For the most part, you can't do retroactive child support in Georgia, but you can do retroactive on expenses. So when you've got a situation where the child was born out of wedlock, the other parent, when they come after the obligor for child support, they could be on the hook for past expenses relating to the child, including birthing expenses. And this app would, if both parties agreed to this, that would record all of that. So it would be so easy to defend yourself in court if something like that came, if they brought a child support action two years later and say, "Well, you didn't contribute at all", and you go, "Well, wait a minute, I have this app. Every time you bought diapers you asked me to pay for some, here's my proof I paid it."

Erika Englund: You're really looking at the different between a nightmare scenario and having perfect records at the touch of a button. There's really no in-between, there. Absolutely. I know we have about a minute left in this segment, so just to hit number two. This is really easy, but when a court order lacks details, that is a big mistake. The court order should say how much support is paid, but also the day on which it's due, the first support payment, how the support is allocated between the children, IE, how much we pay for the oldest child, the second oldest, the youngest, and then how the parents handle additional expenses. All of these components are crucial to contain in your court order. So if your court order doesn't have these, it's a great time to go back to your lawyer and make sure that you've got the required detail.

Todd Orston: So I wonder if California is different than Georgia. Because in Georgia, the child support order is just, we can only issue one order for all the kids.

Leh Meriwether: You don't break it down into this much for this child, this much for that child. But, again, that's where the importance of understanding your specific state law comes into play.

Todd Orston: Exactly.

Erika Englund: Absolutely. And even if you don't allocate it between children in Georgia, it's still quite important to have due dates, start dates, allocating expenses and insurance. We'll get into that a little bit more, but just having an amount may not be a sufficient court order.

Todd Orston: Absolutely. When we get back, we're going to continue to break down the five child support mistakes that parents make.

Leh Meriwether: Hey, everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1 AM on Monday mornings on WSB.

Todd Orston: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes, or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating, and tell us why you like the show.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Leh. With me is Todd. We're your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com, and you can listen to this show, read transcripts from this show and other shows, at divorceteamradio.com, not to mention anywhere you get your pods.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Well, today we have Erika Anne Englund with us, the chief of strategy for SupportPay, an amazing software out there, a financial platform that helps manage child support payments, expenses, and reimbursements. She shared with us about the software, and now we're talking about the five child support mistakes parents make and how to avoid them.

Leh Meriwether: So we left off, we talked about lacking details in the court order. Erika had highlighted a difference between Georgia and California. I do want to say something, following up on what I said, that typically, Georgia, it's just a child support order for all the kids. But parents routinely, especially if the kids are close to aging out, like a few years from close to aging out, routinely will do multiple sets of child support worksheets, so that they do not have to come back to court to modify the child support as the children age out, they reach 18 or graduate from high school. So I just wanted to throw that in there.

Todd Orston: Okay.

Leh Meriwether: All right.

Todd Orston: No, I was saying, you can throw whatever... you know what? As long as your name's on the show, I think you can throw whatever you want in, so...

Leh Meriwether: All right. All right, Erika. Let's hit the next common child support mistake that parents make.

Erika Englund: All right. This is failing to define, and if you could see my hands, I'd be doing air quotes, additional expenses. In California, maybe it's the same in Georgia, child support is for base expenses of the child's living, and then the other, additional expenses of a child's life, like private school tuition, medical copays, braces, extracurricular and athletic activities, are shared separately by the parents. Is that how it works in Georgia?

Leh Meriwether: Similar. Very, very close.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Things like school, unless it's specifically stated that private school tuition is an issue, then if it's not in child support, then the party who is responsible to pay child support doesn't have an additional obligation. Usually, child support is specifically dealt with in the order, and then things like braces and all those other kinds of medical expenses usually fall under some general language that calls for each party to be responsible for a portion, oftentimes 50/50, but a lot of times, with child support the way it works here, there's a pro rata percentage, and therefore, let's say the paying spouse is responsible for 70%, then their obligation would also be for 70% of those uncovered medical expenses. So, it is, for the most part, specifically dealt with in Georgia, but maybe not to the same extent as in California.

Leh Meriwether: And let me add one thing, because I think this is a great point, Erika, the failing to define the additional expenses. When it comes to extracurricular activities, in the Georgia child support guidelines, seven percent of the child support is supposed to be considered to going towards extracurricular activities.

Erika Englund: Oh, interesting.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, so there's a portion of it. But the court, above, and it's actually built into the worksheet so it figures it out, but let's say they do travels softball or baseball, or soccer, or cheerleading, whatever it may be. That gets really expensive. So it'll automatically deduct that seven percent, or the ratio of it, and then the parents will be obligated, often on a pro rata share, of the additional expense.

Leh Meriwether: But, what we see in things that create arguments, this is why I think this is so important, so Mom and Dad, they get divorced, they start doing things, and they have a disagreement, okay. So for two years, Dad's been splitting the rather inexpensive soccer expenses. But Dad gets mad at Mom, and then he realizes, "Oh, there's seven percent of my child support", it's not exactly seven percent, but anyways, "a portion of my child support counts toward the soccer, so I'm not paying it anymore." Then Mom gets mad at him, files a contempt. But if they had spent the time initially to clearly define what those additional expenses are, it would've avoided the fight later on, which also would help the children, because it would've kept them out of a fight.

Todd Orston: Well, let me be...

Erika Englund: Agreed.

Todd Orston: Yeah, let me also just say one quick thing, just to comment on that, Leh. Absent specific language, Erika, to your point, I don't believe that father would have that additional obligation. So that is where we, I can say that we at Meriwether & Thorp, we are always very careful about, and try to very careful about making sure, if additional expenses have to be covered, that it's in there. Because if it's not in there, then the assumption is that seven percent is going to cover all the expenses that we're talking about. And so if there is travel ball, or cheerleader, or anything that takes up, or costs a lot, people have to be very careful, because if you don't put it in, the other party doesn't have an obligation.

Erika Englund: There are so many ways it can go wrong when that is not clearly defined, and so this is why I say, out of all the mistakes people can make with child support, one of the five biggest is not defining what are the additional expenses, and how are those allocated between the parents. And even then, we can have problems. With COVID and distance learning, your children now might need a laptop, they might need a mobile phone, they may need a tutor or a day care provider or a nanny during the day so you can work, and these are additional expenses parents may not even have considered. So it's quite important for parents to be on the same page about what counts as additional shareable expenses, and then allocating the percentage of sharing those expenses between the parents.

Erika Englund: Number four, this is one of those way easier said than done, but I'll be quick with it. It's utilizing other tools to keep the conflict down. I look at conflict like a little teeny fire, and if parents have another conflict somewhere else, it starts a little teeny fire, and another conflict on something else starts a little teeny fire, and at some point, you've seen this, it all just explodes into one giant firewall. So whatever we can do to tamper those fires down as they come up is really helpful to keep our clients moving forward smoothly.

Erika Englund: Tools that they can use to keep their conflict down, obviously SupportPay helps them manage payment of child support and expenses, so they don't have to talk about money. That is huge. I also recommend that they use a communication app to handle their co-parenting and their scheduling. And one of my absolute best co-parenting tips is read a parenting book. Doesn't matter which book, just both of you read the same book about how to parent your children. And then when conflicts come up with the children, you're handling them in the same way. Do some work on yourself. Do some work on your co-parenting relationship. And even though that's not related to child support, keeping the conflict down elsewhere is going to make your relationship over support significantly better. Your children are going to be happier, and your lives are going to go a lot smoother. Remember that child support doesn't exist in a vacuum. Divorce is really hard, and you need and deserve some tools to help manage that conflict. So do that for yourself, be proactive, to use one of your favorite words, and it really will help you avoid future child support disputes.

Todd Orston: You know, that is so... I'm just thinking about the times, you get so busy. Let's say you normally have two good co-parents, but they're super busy, and we all get a gazillion e-mails a day, and so Dad, or Mom, whoever it is, I'm going to use Dad right now, Dad knows he owes Mom some money for a recent orthodontics bill. And so, he's like, "Man, I can't find that e-mail anywhere." And so maybe it's the 29th day. Maybe he should've paid it a few days ago, he's just forgotten about it. Mom texted him, "When are you going to pay me?" Maybe she doesn't say it like that, but, "When am I going to get this co-pay?"-

Erika Englund: That's how he hears it.

Todd Orston: Yeah, that's how he hears it. And he says, "I can't find it, you need to send it to me again." She's, "Oh, God, why do I have to keep sending these things to you over and over again?" So then she has to go to her e-mails, dig up that e-mail, resend the e-mail, or maybe she scans in the receipt again. Now they're both irritated with each other. Where SupportPay, which actually makes me, I got a question real quick. So, let's say he doesn't pay it right away in SupportPay. This is the question, because I have no idea. Is there a reminder that you can set up, so maybe like 10 days goes by and he didn't pay it, and it pops up, "Hey, you still haven't paid this bill." Is that in SupportPay?

Erika Englund: It will remind them each time they log in to the app, and then they can set their own notifications. So they can decide what push notifications they'd like the app to give them.

Leh Meriwether: So that way, Dad doesn't need to bother Mom. Dad just goes into the app. "Oh, there's the bill. This is how much I owe." Boom, push play. And that avoids that tension or that frustration, "I got to find this in my e-mail again", it just avoids all that.

Leh Meriwether: Hey, when we get up, we're going to finish going through the five child support mistakes that parents make, and how to avoid them.

Leh Meriwether: Hey, I just wanted to remind you that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1 AM on Monday mornings on WSB, so you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess.

Leh Meriwether: Right. You can turn on the show, and...

Todd Orston: We'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Leh, and with me is Todd. We're your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com, and you can get past shows, get transcripts of past shows, this show, at divorceteamradio.com.

Leh Meriwether: Today with us is Erika Englund. She is the chief of strategy for SupportPay, an amazing new financial platform that manages child support payments, expenses, and reimbursements. It's fantastic. But we've been talking about the five child support mistakes that parents make, and how to avoid them. And actually her app helps to avoid a lot of these, the company's app, but we have one left. So, Erika, what is the fifth child support mistake you've seen parents make?

Erika Englund: It's great to be here. And just to recap, the first is not having an order, or not having an updated order. The second is lacking details. The third is not defining additional expenses. And the fourth mistake is utilizing tools to keep the conflict down between the parents. So, your shows are awesome. I've listened to so many, but just in case this is the first one somebody's catching, that's one through four. The fifth is lacking a plan for payment. Very often, parents get an order for support and expenses, and they walk out of the courtroom, and they don't know that they're about to face the biggest challenge, which is how are we actually paying and tracking support.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, we have both...

Todd Orston: I think I can speak for Leh, that we have both seen people get into immense trouble. And by that, I mean I've seen people, I actually spoke to somebody recently, that the youngest was emancipated, and all the sudden, out of the blue, got not just a demand letter, but a contempt petition alleging that they were $20,000 or more behind in unpaid expenses. And whether you think it's reasonable or not, you now have to spend the time, money, and effort to hire an attorney and defend yourself. Hopefully, the facts are on your side and the law is on your side, but that's still a lot of effort, and I'll be honest, with a tool like yours, it just seems like you can make all of that go away, meaning you can avoid those types of problems.

Erika Englund: Absolutely. It's so simple to keep track of these little expenses as they build, day by day and week by week, and incredibly difficult to go back and reconstruct months or even years of a financial history. If this is case that you had had happened in California, our state would have the power to revoke your client's drivers license and suspend his professional licenses. So if he were an attorney, or if he were a pilot, we could take away his licenses to actually do his job. There's incredible [inaudible 00:35:59] incredible reach to collect support. And so when parents are paying support, they should get credit for the support that they pay, and the only way that they can get appropriate credit is to show that they have paid it.

Erika Englund: So while our app is really helpful for the parent who's requesting expenses, it's just as helpful for the parent who needs proof that they have paid expenses as they go along. And when we have people that don't include in their order how they're going to pay ongoing support and additional expenses, they're not on the same page and they don't have a court order for it, then unfortunately the situation you described comes up much, much too often and becomes an expensive catastrophe for them, doesn't it?

Todd Orston: Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And going back to the lack of a plan for payment, had that caller called in, they had a provision in there that said that the person who incurred the expense had to give notice to the other party within 30 days, and there has to be a clause in there, what happens when they don't. A failure to give the other party notice within 30 days results in a waiver of the right to collect that amount. So you've got to put that detail in there about the payment and the notification of when the payment is due, like what triggers someone owing a reimbursement for child expenses, or I've even seen this with extracurriculars, where the parties agreed to split extracurriculars, but one parent just never gave the other parent notice. And that other parent-

Erika Englund: And we have the opposite issue here in California, where that 30 day period is automatically mandated, and some parents don't know about it. So they don't know they may have waived the right to get a reimbursement, because they don't know that the law requires that they request within 30 days.

Leh Meriwether: Wow, that's interesting.

Erika Englund: At the same time, there's judicial discretion to bend that, so judges can go back beyond the 30 days.

Leh Meriwether: Wow.

Erika Englund: And in any of these scenarios, it can just be a mess. And so the simple way, even if a client doesn't use SupportPay, and I hope they do because it's $80 a year to manage your conflict, track your expenses, and keep perfect records, but if they don't, they should at least agree on some system for how they're going to pay. Is it check, is it bill pay, is it Venmo, and how they're going to track those additional expenses. Is it Microsoft Excel? Do they meet once a week? Do they meet every 30 days? And how do they handle disputes as disputes come up? So if they're not going to use SupportPay, they certainly need, in their order, some specific language that says how they're going to be making payments, tracking expenses, and at least in Georgia certainly, language regarding when they need to provide notice.

Leh Meriwether: I want to add, from having to defend these, or handle these kind of cases in the past, $80 for a whole year is a lot less than me spending just one hour at my hourly rate trying to figure out these numbers. Because I had a case that was a mess, and it took, because we had to be able to explain it simply to the judge, I mean there was like four or five hours spent trying to organize all this stuff.

Todd Orston: Four or five hours? Leh, I think you're hitting the nail on the head. The vast amount of the work that's done in these types of case is the forensic work, going through and figuring out what payments are due, what payments have been made, what payments were missed. So having a tool like this, and immediately being spoon-fed that database that lists all the things that were due and all the things that were paid and therefore all the things that were missed, I'll be honest with you, that makes it a very simple case, whether we are defending or, for lack of a better way of saying, prosecuting the case.

Todd Orston: Because if I'm bringing the contempt, I can show to the other side within minutes, this is what's due. And if I'm defending, and everything's been paid, I can say, 'Here's the proof. I don't even understand why you're bringing this action. And by the way, under a certain code section here in Georgia, if you don't dismiss this case because it's frivolous, we're coming after you, not just the client, but the attorney, for fees, because here's the evidence that it's a frivolous case." So, I got to tell you, it's immense.

Erika Englund: Oh, agreed. And it's simpler for the judge, too, because when you do a forensic, and then the other attorney on the other side does a forensic, I could guarantee you're going to come up with different numbers to present to the judge, who absolutely loves going line by line through [inaudible 00:40:52] to compare numbers. I know this [inaudible 00:40:55][crosstalk 00:40:55].

Todd Orston: Nor is that sarcasm. Yeah.

Erika Englund: Having a legally admissible neutral third party source to, just at the push of a button, download these records for the judge is really helpful for the court, too.

Todd Orston: Well, and, you know the funny thing is, people who pay through the state have access to something similar, but not everybody pays through the state. If you can contact child support services here, and they'll give you, not for the unpaid stuff, not for the uncovered expenses, but just the general child support, you take that, which is actually a very helpful tool to show the payment history for the basic child support, you've taken it to another level where you're saying, "Oh, we're capturing the child support payments. We're capturing the uncovered payments, the medical expenses, you name it, and here's now a detailed record." I think it's fantastic.

Erika Englund: That's why it's also a wonderful tool for people that do use the state collection system, because the state only collects base support. It doesn't collect and track additional expenses. And so even for our clients using the state system, the app is really valuable.

Erika Englund: And this is really how it got started in the first place. Our founder, Sheri Atwood, is a single mother. She was a Silicon Valley CEO who had an amicable divorce, and then, every single time she had to go talk to her ex about money, they had a conflict. And she thought, "There's got to be an app for this, that allows us to deal with the financial aspects of co-parenting not face to face." And when there wasn't, she decided to create that from scratch. So she has bootstrapped the company. She's been through the nation's most prestigious incubator, Jason Calacanis's LAUNCH Accelerator, and now she's just closed out our first round of funding with triple our funding goal, and so gone from single parent with a problem to CEO with a multimillion dollar company, with a mission that children get the support that they deserve from both parents, and courtroom efficiency's increased and conflicts lowered. It's really a fantastic company to be working for.

Todd Orston: Wow, that's awesome. Hey, Erika, thanks so much for coming on the show. And the app, or the platform, is SupportPay. You find it at supportpay.com, is that right?

Erika Englund: That's right. It's available in the Google store, too, on Apple and Android. And before you let me go, I want to let you know I'll give you some resources for your listeners, in addition to your vast resources you have on your site. I'll give you some printables for additional expenses and child support order details to help your listeners out, and then a little write-up on 10 ways that they can keep conflict down when they're discussing money with their ex. So that'll be on your website and on our website, supportpay.com, under child support resources.

Todd Orston: Awesome.

Leh Meriwether: Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for listening.