Avoiding Child Support Scams
When you get a divorce, you may receive an order to pay child support. The amount of child support is determined by many factors, including the incomes of both parents. Enforcement of child support orders is carried out by the Department of Revenue.
Sometimes the spouse that owes support is unable or unwilling to pay. When this happens, the other parent can go through state agencies to enforce payment. State agencies have many tools at their disposal for collecting the money that is owed. They can garnish wages, deny passports, suspend driver’s licenses, and in some cases, issue warrants for the arrest of those who fail to pay child support.
Another option available is to hire a private collection agency. Private collection agencies claim to be more successful in collecting child support payments. This may be due to using high-pressure tactics. Some of the tactics they engage in include:
- Directly contacting the parent that owes.
- Speaking to the neighbors and employers of the noncustodial parent.
- Continual streams of contact, either verbal or written, designed to wear the noncustodial parent down.
While these private collection agencies may have more success, it is important to note that there are specific drawbacks to using them
- Many states will allow the local Child Support Enforcement offices to “close” the case if a private agency is hired.
- Agencies can attach fees exceeding 35% on any money collected. This can extend to payments secured directly through the noncustodial parent and to payments secured by the CSE office.
- Some contracts include auto-renew clauses for up to six months after the last payment is collected. Even if the noncustodial parent begins paying the custodial parent directly, fees can still be owed to the agency
While there are many legitimate collection agencies, there are those which are not legitimate. Recently, in Florida, a couple was arrested for such a child support scam. The couple solicited people owed child support and deposited money from fraudulent checks into their accounts. The state then dispersed these funds to the parent, and later received insufficient funds notices from the banks. As a part of the scam, the couple received a portion of the funds distributed to the recipient.
There are other scams out there as well. Scammers would use tactics like sending threatening letters and demanding that employers garnish wages. In these cases, such as this Virginia case, the agency charged also exorbitant fees to both the custodial and noncustodial parent.
- Ensure the company is reputable and has a history in the business. Always make sure there is a valid contact number and physical address where contact can be made.
- Ensure you understand the fees that will be charged and when they will be paid.
- Know how contingency fees will be assessed from any personal attempts to collect or from any funds collected by state agencies.
- Have any contracts reviewed by a professional.
- Contact the state authorities to learn of any consequences for going with a private agency.
If you are owed child support or owe child support, many experts recommend that you do not go through private agencies. Most experts will recommend that you continue to work through the state agencies designed to enforce the payment of child support. If you do decide to go with a private agency to collect child support, it is important to ensure you are not becoming the victim of a scam.