Private Child Support Agencies
Many parents face the challenge of collecting child support, and can’t afford to hire an attorney and aren’t seeing results from government child support service agencies. Another option may be a private child support collection agency.
A private agency can be the right solution, but you need to understand the services provided, and the fees and costs involved. Trying to collect support can be stressful, but use caution and be a smart consumer before signing a contract.
Private Agency, Government and Attorney Services Compared
A private child support collection agency functions much like other collection agencies, but concentrates on debts owed for child support. Some states don’t allow this type of collection agency. In other states, agencies are subjected to industry-specific regulations, including registration.
Depending on your type of case, such as receipt of welfare benefits, government agencies may be required to help collect support. Government agencies and attorneys can help with collection efforts, and can provide legal help in obtaining support orders. Private agencies focus on collecting support based on existing court orders.
Private agencies may have the time and resources to get results faster. Government agencies have heavy case loads and must do more with less. Private agencies use high-pressure techniques on a noncustodial parent that public sources won’t use, such as:
- Contacting the parent directly at home
- Talking to the parent’s neighbors and coworkers
- Threatening to put liens on the parent’s property
- Constant streams of communication directed toward the parent
When thinking about using a private agency, check how long it has been in business, and confirm its phone number and street address. Also want to check for any consumer complaints at your local Better Business Bureau or your state’s attorney general.
Private Agency Fees
Private child support collection agencies typically take a percentage cut, called a contingency fee, of up to 40 percent of all support collected, no matter who collects it. So even if you collect child support money from your child’s other parent through your efforts, or the government’s, you still must pay the private agency’s fees.
Ask any private collection agency you’re considering about:
- Fees to get your case started
- Contingency fee amount
- Added expenses, such as lawyer fees or case processing costs
- Alternatives for collecting child support
Service Contract Terms
It’s important to review any private collection agency contract very carefully you sign. Understand exactly how and when the agency can collect its contingency fee:
- Does it apply to money you collect by your personal efforts?
- Does it include money the noncustodial parent voluntarily pays?
- Is the contingency fee based on current child support that is paid through your local government agencies?
Ask how what the duration of the contract is, and how it will be renewed. Some contracts have self-renewing clauses for up to six months after the last child support payment comes in. You could end up owing the agency fees if the noncustodial parent begins making payments and collection efforts aren’t needed.
Ask questions, and if you don’t agree with a contract term, ask to change it. Don’t be shy about negotiating.
As long as you understand the deal you’re making, working with a private collection agency can be a good opportunity to collect child support payments you may otherwise never see.