Before You Use a Private Child Support Collection Agency

What You Need to Know About Child Support Collection Services

Records from a private child support collection agency
Photo © Claire Cordier/Getty Images

Have you thought about using an independent child support collection agency? Many child support collection services claim high success rates. They may even post client testimonies on their site. However, you should always exercise caution before using an independent child support collection agency. In addition, remember that these private services operate independently from each state's Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). This important to know because state-run child support agencies are designed to collaborate with the federal OCSE under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Therefore, parents who use a private child support collection agency run the risk that the agency will not have access to information available to the federal government. 

The Cost of Using a Private Child Support Collection Agency

At most, your local Office of Child Support Enforcement can charge you a $25 processing fee. However, each independent child support collection agency can set its own fees. Most of the time, these companies will only charge you if they're able to successfully help you recover unpaid child support. However, you've probably been waiting for that money for a long time, and the original intent of the money was to support your children. So you have to ask yourself: is giving a portion of that money to a collection agency in your best interest?

Private Child Support Collection Services vs. State-Run Agencies

In reality, a repossession service can't really do more for you than your local Office of Child Support Enforcement. The OCSE works with various agencies on a federal level, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Department of Defense (DOD), to locate parents, establish paternity, and enforce child support orders. The nature of many child support cases necessitates the collaboration of these agencies in order to ensure the successful collection of unpaid child support.

Questions to Ask Before Using a Private Child Collection Agency

Finally, if you do decide to use a private child support collection service, be sure to ask the following questions first: 

  • How does the agency decide which cases to take? - The agency's success rate may look impressive, but those numbers don't include the cases they decided not to take.
  • Has the Better Business Bureau processed any complaints against the agency? - Make sure that you research the company's reputation through the Better Business Bureau.
  • What percentage of the total child support collected does the agency keep? - Private child support services stay in business by keeping a portion of every dollar they collect.