This article is part of our series featuring the founders of our 2020 Duke Law Tech Lab startups, early-stage legal tech companies with a mission to increase access to justice. Written by Justin Reinking (Duke Law JD ’22).
Everybody knows somebody who has a problem collecting back child support. Don’t believe me? Go out and shake your friend and family tree and I guarantee someone will fall out. Point them to Don’t Get Mad Get Paid because they need your help. Don’t Get Mad Get Paid was built by a mom for moms with a very specific problem.
Who is the mom behind Don’t Get Mad Get Paid?
Meet Simone Spence, CEO/Founder.
Simone mastered the art of collecting unpaid child support nearly two decades ago when she had a child support collection problem of her own and was able to navigate the complex legal system to do right by her daughter.
Other moms began to hear of Simone’s success and came to her for help. Quickly, Simone developed a passion for helping mothers collect what they are owed. This passion grew into her consultancy practice. As a consultant, Simone has helped 10,000 women collect over 15 million dollars. Simone’s not done yet. There’s still money on the table for moms to collect.
Each year an estimated 118 billion dollars of child support goes uncollected in the United States. There are many reasons why moms can’t collect. Usually, mom has three options:
- hire an attorney,
- rely on Child Support Enforcement, or
- turn to a collection agency.
Most moms cannot afford the high attorney fees, Child Support Enforcement is free but ineffective, and collection agencies are downright predatory. So what is a mom to do?
Many women try to represent themselves but are blocked from an inaccessible legal system that claims that we have a right to represent ourselves but then makes it difficult for us to do so. In an effort to fix this problem and expand her assistance to more mothers, Simone raised angel and venture capital funding to create Don’t Get Mad Get Paid’s product, Athena.
Athena launched in October 2019, as a software solution that automates the child support collection process. Athena enables moms to find dads and their income and assets and generates state-specific and customized legal documents for moms. Once onboarded, all mom has to do is print and mail the documents that are provided to her to begin collecting. During her career, Simone has an 87 percent success rate at collecting back child support.
Simone says that while there are civil rights problems in this country on many levels, the inability to represent ourselves in court despite it being a constitutional right is one that has not been highlighted or talked about enough. The legal system puts up barriers for everyday people to access the system without an attorney by doing things such as creating legal documents that a layperson is expected to use written using legal jargon and often in Latin. Athena breaks through barriers such as these by acting as a translator between legalese and mom. It democratizes the child support enforcement legal process by leveling the playing field so that mom can access the court system and collect what rightfully belongs to her. Roadblocks, be gone!