Jimmy Verner is a board certified family law attorney in Dallas, TX. He has always been interested in streamlining the practice of law, ever since he started practicing law at the tail end of the IBM Selectric era when word processors first came out and he found that typing his own pleadings and letters was much more efficient than dictation. (I've always felt the same way, myself.)
Verner has no formal training in programming, but he was one of the early pioneers in using the Internet in the practice of law. In the 1990s, he created a website called WillMakers on which people could make their own simple wills online. Unfortunately, he was a little ahead of his time and the T-1 line he had to lease to handle the internet traffic was too expensive to make the effort worthwhile.
After practicing for 30 years, specializing in family law since 1990, Verner realized that he acquired enough knowledge to build an online child support calculator, essentially reverse-engineering the Texas Family Code's child support provisions and turning them into algebra. That website is available here. He was showing the online calculator to his law partners when one of them suggested he turn it into an iPhone app.
Although Verner didn't own an iPhone, his wife did. He had some extra time, having recently completed a Ph.D. program, so he signed up with Apple as a developer and bought the book Beginning iPhone 3 Development by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche and then bought an iPhone. He hired a software engineer to help him get started as he was first learning the ropes, but them finished up the app by himself and released Child Support Calculator (which he calls CS Calc for short) for the iPhone last month.
I am a big fan of iPhone apps that make it very simple to do a specific task that would otherwise be complicated or hard to remember, and CS Calc is definitely one such app. CS Calc lets you calculate Texas child support payments simply and easily on the fly without having to drag out the Family Code and extrapolate or estimate. You simply enter five variables—whether self employed, gross annual income, number of children before the court, cost of health insurance for the children, and number of other children supporting—and the app instantly provides the Texas guideline child support.
These two screens are all you need to use the app, but Verner also includes a long information screen that explains to you exactly what the app is doing and why it is doing it. Here are the first two pages:
Although I don't practice family law, I can definitely see the usefulness of an app like this. Verner tells me that he is considering similar apps for other states, but they would be more complicated. For example, Verner tells me that most states follow the "income shares" child support model which requires financial data about both parents to calculate child support whereas Texas only looks to financial data about the obligor. But even though Verner's current target market is currently just Texas, he notes that "Texas is a huge state with millions of people paying or receiving child support" so there should be ample interest in this app from both family law practitioners and individuals who owe child support. The reviews so far on iTunes have been positive, with one reviewer calling the app "Simple, efficient and mobile. Great at mediation, courthouse or settlement conference." If you practice this area of law, this looks like money well spent.
Thanks to Jimmy Verner for telling me about this great app. He has already released a second iPhone app, a Texas litigation deadlines calculator, which I will be take a look at later this week.