“[P]rivate collection agencies often fail to deliver any genuine services. Instead, they strip income from low and moderate-income families that could have been spent on housing, childcare, clothing and school expenses, or saved for their children”s education. They trap custodial parents in perpetual contracts.
“They also exploit the child support indebtedness of low and moderate-income non-custodial parents through the use of predatory and abusive tactics that increase their debt levels and often destroy their credit histories and interfere with parenting relationships.
“A number of private child support companies bring to the table a history of consumer complaints, bar association ethics complaints, and litigation filed against them.”
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national nonprofit that works to improve the lives of low-income people. CLASP”s mission is to improve the economic security, educational and workforce prospects, and family stability of low-income parents, children, and youth and to secure equal justice for all.
CLASP Senior Staff Attorney Vicki Turetsky recently issued a devastating critique of private child support collection companies, such as Jim Durham’s National Child Support Center, which is featured in Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads. Fathers & Families led a successful campaign to drive the Show off of Fox last year, and is currently protesting Lifetime’s plans to air it–to learn more, see our campaign page here.
According to Turetsky’s report Private Child Support Collection Companies:
CLASP has an extensive file of state consumer complaints and lawsuits filed over the past decade by mothers, fathers, grandparents, employers, states, and courts around the county against some of the largest private child support collection companies. CLASP continues to receive complaints on a regular basis from custodial and non-custodial parents, legal services programs, and state legislators about the predatory practices of this industry.
From these recent complaints, it does not appear to CLASP that these predatory practices have changed much from a decade ago, but rather that the problems are more widespread…
The complaints reflect an offensive and disturbing picture of deceptive advertising, misleading contracts, fee gouging, harassment and abuse, posing as the government, dunning grandparents, inflating and fabricating debts, undermining creditworthiness, and abusing legal process…Often, custodial parents have no idea that the company is operating a scam…
[C]ompanies use abusive and coercive collection practices against low and moderate-income non-custodial parents and their relatives. Like the custodial parents who sign up for services, the non-custodial parents targeted by the companies appear to be of modest means. They have low-level jobs and have limited educations. Often, they have a second family.
The companies interfere with the parents” employment relationships, make unauthorized foreclosure threats, harass mortgage companies, and repeatedly pull down credit records. They sometimes call the grandparents and threaten them with jail unless the grandparents pay up.
These companies often inflate child support debts by charging unauthorized interest on decades-old debts and extort payments that the companies know that parents do not owe. They undermine regular payments being made by the parents and sabotage these parents” often tenuous toe-hold in the mainstream economy.