Choosing a private child support collection agency
Choosing the right private child support enforcement agency is an important decision. Receiving the support you are owed could make a tremendous difference in your financial well-being so you must choose an agency you can trust with that responsibility. The key to making the decision easier is doing some simple research before you sign any contract so you can make an informed choice.
Support Collectors, Inc. has been in business since 1996, and we’ve seen other agencies come and go. We have studied the characteristics of reliable, credible agencies and some of the factors you should consider include the following:
Contract – The contract should be in writing, be easy to understand and have a signature line for both you and someone from the private agency. If any part of the contract is unclear or confusing, you should ask the private agency plenty of questions and request clarification in writing. Support Collectors uses a contract intentionally written at a 10th grade reading level to help parents understand its terms.
Contract Amount – The contract amount is the amount you are asking the private agency to collect. Some agencies call it a “Specified Amount” or some other variation. The amount should not be ambiguous, though a contract should allow for modification to the amount to include statutory interest and any information gathered from official documents and payment records. It should not include amounts which may be owed back to the state due to the prior receipt of TANF benefits. Beware of contracts that allow the contract amount to continually grow if additional payments are missed.
Length of Contract – This should be stated in terms of a dollar amount to be collected or as a length of time. Support Collector’s contact automatically ends when the Contract Amount has been collected.
Fees – Fees are typically stated as a percentage of the child support collected by the private agency. Note that some agencies also charge an initial fee, sometimes called a “Application Fee” or “case development Fee” that can be as much as $500. Agencies that charge that type of fee will take 100% of the child support until their fee has been collected. Support Collectors does not charge this type of fee.
Track Record – You should choose a well-established agency that has a history of strong collections and customer satisfaction. Check out the agency’s Better Business Bureau rating. You should also research the agency’s stability – has the agency been in business for more than 10 years with a proven track record? Does research on the internet reveal a lot of complaints by customers? Having answers to these questions will help you feel comfortable and confident with the agency you choose. Support Collectors maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Licensing – A number of states require private agencies to be licensed and bonded in order to accept clients and to contact the non-custodial parent. Some of the states are Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas and Utah. If you or the non-custodial parent lives in a state that requires licensing, make sure your private child support agency is licensed so that they can work your case effectively while also following all laws. Support Collectors is licensed in these and other states requiring licensing.
State/County Child Support Case – Even if you still have an open case with your state or county child support office, you can still hire a private agency to help you. However, be aware that some private agencies will require you to close you government child support case if you want to work with them. Support Collectors does not do that. Support Collectors believes it is to your advantage to have both the public sector and the private sector working on your side.
Trade Association – The leading private child support enforcement agencies are members of the Child Support Enforcement Council which is a trade association aimed at promoting best practices. Members agree to abide by the Council’s Code of Ethics. Support Collectors is an original member of the Council.