Why This Woman Created an App to Finally Get Child Support From Her Ex
How much would you pay to never talk to your ex again?
If you’re like many parents dealing with child support, your answer would probably be “a lot.”
For Sheri Atwood, it certainly was. She got so sick of chasing her ex to collect child support that, at one point, she simply gave up.
For three years.
“They say the top two reasons for divorce are money and communication,” she explains. “When you divorce with children, you have to communicate about money. So it doesn’t get better, it gets worse.”
Desperate for a solution that removed the hassle from child support — but still ensured she got paid — Atwood decided to take matters into her own hands.
Why She Started SupportPay
“When parents separate, there are all these professionals involved in the process,” she says. “And then they get that child-support order, everybody leaves, and it’s up to the parents to manage.”
Usually, the order includes a set monthly amount (known as base support), plus instructions to share additional expenses like education and extracurriculars.
For Atwood, though her divorce was amicable, managing child support quickly became exhausting. Every time she saw her ex to exchange their daughter, she found herself rattling off a list of requests for money.
He’d make excuses, and rarely believed the items cost as much as they did, Atwood says.
“So I started talking to a lot of other dads, who are usually the ones reimbursing,” she explains. “They said, ‘I have no problem paying if I know the money’s going to my kid — but I don’t want to support my ex and their lifestyle.’”
She realized parents needed an easy way to track (and prove) expenses and request payments — essentially, a tool that provided expense reports for the business of raising a child.
She searched online, and was shocked to discover it didn’t exist yet.
Seeing a need she could fill, Atwood quit her corporate tech job, taught herself to code, and released the beta version of SupportPay in 2011.
Seven years later, it has 40,000 users.
How SupportPay Works
SupportPay allows you to track expenses, upload receipts, and send payments directly between bank accounts (without revealing your financial information to your ex).
For recurring expenses, you can set up automatic payments, and for expenses you don’t agree with, you can dispute them.
The app can be used for both extras and base support — an option that, according to Atwood, many parents don’t realize they have.
“When you get a child support order, you can choose to make the payment directly,” she says.
“You don’t have to have your child support garnished if you prove you make your payments on time.”
And since SupportPay provides a third-party record of expenses and payments, many parents use it in court, too.
“The product helps both sides,” says Atwood. “The parent who’s getting reimbursed is 90% more likely to get paid — and the person who’s paying has records in one central place.”
Soon, the app will roll out additional features including direct payment of third parties (like your child’s daycare), photo and video sharing, and a SupportPay debit card, calendar and chat function.
Could SupportPay Help You?
SupportPay is available for Apple or Android, or as a web platform.
Though the older reviews are very positive, several newer reviews complain about technical issues. Atwood says the most recent version fixed these bugs.
The free version of the app allows you to track two expenses per month, maintain six months of records and use PayPal for payments.
For the full features, including direct deposit and unlimited expenses and record keeping, you’ll need to pay $14.99 per month, or $9.99 per month billed annually.
That being said, Atwood doesn’t want money to stand in the way of someone using her app.
“If there’s someone who can’t afford the $9.99 a month, they should contact us,” she says. “Pay us what you feel the value is.”
Depending on your relationship with your ex, that could be less than $10 a month… or it could be pretty close to priceless.
Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.