When you’re at your wits end about collecting child support, using a collection agency may make sense. They specialize in collecting child support, and they do it very well. That effectiveness comes at a price, though, in the form of a hefty percentage of your child support you give to them.
I spent a morning a while ago with a fellow who collected child support for a living, on the staff of a national child support collection agency. I was suprised at the matter-of-fact way in which he described his collection methods. “I just call him up (let’s face it: most child support payors are men) and tell him what’s going on,” he said. I talk through with him what we’re prepared to do and what his life’s going to be like until we get our money, and usually he decides to start sending it to us.”
I can see how he is probably right. Most child support payors sort of expect that they’re going to be paying eventually; they’re just hoping to put it off as long as possible. And when someone calls who seems to have the resources to make them pay, I can see how they would decide, “Okay, I guess this is it. I guess I don’t have any choice any more.”
Child support collection agencies are extraordinarily effective. One of them advertises that it successfully collects child support from more than 90% of the parents whose files it takes on, and I can believe it. These agencies often have location departments as part of their organization, so even if you’ve lost touch with the other parent, they can often find them and get to where they are working.
One of the most significant problems with these agencies is that they take a percentage of everything they collect, usually from 25 to 33 percent. When you’re getting nothing, though, 65-75% of what you’re owed can sound pretty inviting. Another thing you need to understand about these agencies: their fee typically doesn’t include the legal fee, so if they use a lawyer, the fee for that comes off the top of whatever will get paid to you eventually.
Here are a few of the child support collection agencies that have significant presence on the web:
- SupportKids.com — calls itself the largest private child support collection company in the world.
- Child Support Network — based in Phoenix, AZ, offers some payment plans that don’t involve a contingency fee.
- Child Support Intervention — bills itself as having office in Ft. Worth, Texas and Sydney, Australia — has an extensive web site that contains additional information on skip tracing, establishing paternity, government services available, and other topics.
- Child Support Recovery Service – Focused on collection in the Midwestern U.S.
- Support Collectors, Inc. — based in Minnesota, offering an online intake form and perhaps the simplest (and fastest) web site.
- National Child Support Network, Inc. – They don’t have a snail-mail address posted on their site, so I don’t know where they are. They state they are different from other agencies because you can sever your relationship with them at any time.
And here’s a cautionary piece from the New York Better Business Bureau on the risks you have when you use a child support collection company. I especially like the list of questions they encourage you to ask about the child support collection agency you’re planning to use.