Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Disclaimer: The information in this article is result of research by an average single parent concerned about child support enforcement issues. I do not endorse or discredit any of the organizations listed by name in this article. I highly recommend that single parents consider all options before making any decisions and that they thoroughly investigate any person or company they consider for assistance in child support enforcement issues.
You have a court-ordered child support agreement established, but you rarely or never see any money from the noncustodial parent. You have notified Family Court and it seems as if no one cares. Every time you call you get the same answer, “We are attempting to contact the noncustodial parent to discuss the arrearage.” You have considered hiring an attorney and going back to Family Court, but the up-front fees are more than you can afford, especially since you aren’t receiving child support. What other options do you have?
Based on a need that was being unanswered, a number of Child Support Enforcement companies have been established to assist custodial parents in the collection of child support arrearages. They all purport to obtain better results than state agencies because they are dedicated to child support enforcement only. They make claims of success rates in the millions of dollars and most tout that “We don’t get paid, unless you get paid.” The payment rates sound affordable because they take their fees as a percentage of each payment made by the noncustodial parent rather than charging a lump sum. While such payments may sound fair and easy to make, they can often total more than attorney’s fees would have cost.
I decided to conduct my own research of several private child support companies that advertise on the Internet. By no means are these the only companies available, nor are they necessarily the most prominent. My research was conducted by doing a search using Internet Explorer and analyzing the information on the first five sites listed. In some cases, I followed up my on-line research with phone calls to the companies for information I was unable to obtain on-line. The following are the results of my research:
Support Kids www.supportkids.com
Established in 1991, Support Kids claims to have recovered over $180 million dollars in child support arrearages. They are a private company, with no federal funding and claim to be available to their customers on-line and by telephone on a 24 hour/7day basis. Testimonials of prior customers are featured on their home page.
If your case is for less than $5,000, you must apply for their services on-line. However, if your case is for more than $5,000, you may apply on-line or call their toll-free number to apply for their services. They are very up-front about their collection process. The address for your case is changed with the establishing court to reflect the address of Support Kids. Efforts to locate the noncustodial parent are then begun. Once the noncustodial parent has been found, they will attempt to establish a payment plan for the arrears through either a contract, wage withholding, or a lien. All payments must then be made through Support Kids. If the court receives payments, they will forward them to Support Kids, in addition to any payments made by the noncustodial parent directly to Support Kids. Support Kids deducts their fee and then send you the remainder of the payment. When the arrearages are paid in full, Support Kids will continue to monitor your account and provide support enforcement as needed for an additional fee of 15%. I was unable to find the fee rate for the enforcement of payment for the arrearage on their web site. I called the toll-free number and was on hold for less than a minute before being transferred to an operator. She was very friendly and ready to take my application over the phone. I told her that I was only searching for information at this time and needed to know their fee rate, since it was not listed on the web site. She quoted me a rate of 34%.
KIDS, Ltd. www.collectchildsupport.com/overturedex.html
Established in 1981, KIDS, Ltd purports a 60% success rate on collection of arrearages in child support cases. They are unable to take cases from Connecticut, Oregon and West Virginia due to “restrictive state laws”. [See the article on ACES for a better explanation of this situation.] Their web site gives the feeling of a smaller company with a more personal touch. Testimonials of clients are featured.
Their services can be applied for either on-line or by telephone to their toll-free number. Their collection rate for arrearages is 30%, unless they have to acquire legal representation, in which case the rate is 35% and they pay the attorney fees with the rate increase. They also offer a monitoring service after the arrearages are collected at a rate of 10%. I did not have to call them for any information; everything was readily available on the web site.
Child Support Network www.childsupport.com/index.asp
Established in 1995, Child Support Network claims to have recovered “millions of dollars” nationwide. In addition to child support, they also collect arrearages on spousal support and alimony. They feature testimonials from their clients, along with links to national media coverage received from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The WB.
Clients may apply for their services either on-line or by calling their toll-free number. They do not charge a fee unless they collect funds. They state that the fee is a percentage; however, they do not list their fee schedule on the web site. I spoke with one of their representatives, whom I found to be very helpful. Their collection rate for the arrearages is 35%. They do have a monitoring program that goes by a month-to-month contract for a fee of 15%. I was also told that Child Support Network is the nation’s largest child support enforcement agency. While most such agencies essentially operate as collection agencies, CSN has their own in-house private investigative firm, collection agency, and separate enforcement agency. Despite these advantages, the service representative stated that their success rate was “about 50%.”
Support Collectors www.supportcollectors.com
I was impressed with the fact that the web site for Support Collections was direct, concise, and up-front. There was no guessing here. They were established in 1993 and accept contracts for service via a toll-free phone number or on-line application. They feature testimonials from clients on their web page.
Their collection rate is 30% and there is no additional charge if legal representation is needed to collect the arrearages. They do not maintain the account after the arrearages are collected; they make a point to state that they relinquish the account at that time so that the custodial parent can benefit from 100% of the child support payments. The impression I got from this company’s web site was, “No frills, no fuss, no muss.”
Child Support Enforcement Center (CSEC) www.cesctx.com/home/
While also concise, the web site for CSEC was also very non-informative. They claim 24 hour/7 day customer service with a 70% success rate. No fees are assessed unless monies are collected and a toll-free number is given for additional information. I had many questions that were unanswered, so I called the toll-free number. I received what sounded like a residential answering machine stating that I had reached the Child Support Enforcement Center and if I left my name and number, they would return my call as soon as possible. I do not consider this to be 24 hour/7 day customer service and I did not leave my name and number.
It is very difficult to raise children as a single parent and financial difficulties due to nonpayment of child support only add to the problems. Single parents are often desperate to find assistance in getting the support that their children rightly deserve. Before entering into any type of agreement for assistance in collection of support, check with the Better Business Bureau and otherwise thoroughly investigate the person or company you consider. Ask for references; review information regarding their success rate; be sure to examine your state’s particular child enforcement laws; prepare yourself with all the information you can obtain.
Attorney’s fees can be astronomical, so say the least; however, though easier to pay because of payments, most enforcement agency fees are no cheaper. At an average of 30%, the recovery rate for an agency collecting arrearages of $5,000 is $1,500. I also recommend that single parents considering the use of a child support enforcement agency check out the web site for ACES (Association for Children for the Enforcement of Child Support) at www.childsupport-aces.org. [See related articles on ACES.] They are a non-profit organization whose main purpose is the single parent and enforcement of child support agreements. There is a lot of good information on issues with child support enforcement agencies on their site.
No child, no single parent, deserves to struggle because of a parent who refuses to pay child support. It is a tough battle, but explore all your options, and never give up hope.