Chapter 9. Private Child Support Collectors of California Family Law Code >> Division 9. >> Part 5. >> Chapter 9.
For the purposes of this chapter, "private child support
collector" means any individual, corporation, attorney, nonprofit
organization, or other nongovernmental entity who is engaged by an
obligee to collect child support ordered by a court or other tribunal
for a fee or other consideration. The term does not include any
attorney who addresses issues of ongoing child support or child
support arrearages in the course of an action to establish parentage
or a child support obligation, a proceeding under Division 10
(commencing with Section 6200), a proceeding for dissolution of
marriage, legal separation, or nullity of marriage, or in
postjudgment or modification proceedings related to any of those
actions. A "private child support collector" includes any private,
nongovernmental attorney whose business is substantially comprised of
the collection or enforcement of child support. As used in this
section, substantially means that at least 50 percent of the attorney'
s business, either in terms of remuneration or time spent, is
comprised of the activity of seeking to collect or enforce child
support obligations for other individuals.
(a) Any contract for the collection of child support between
a private child support collector and an obligee shall be in writing
and written in simple language, in at least 10-point type, signed by
the private child support collector and the obligee. The contract
shall be delivered to the obligee in a paper form that the obligee
may retain for his or her records. The contract shall include all of
(1) An explanation of the fees imposed by contract and otherwise
permitted by law and an example of how they are calculated and
(2) A statement that the amount of fees to be charged is set by
the agency and is not set by state law.
(3) A statement that the private child support collector cannot
charge fees on current support if the obligee received any current
child support during the 6 months preceding execution of the contract
with the private collector.
(4) An explanation of the nature of the services to be provided.
(5) The expected duration of the contract, stated as a length of
time or as an amount to be collected by the collection agency.
(6) An explanation of the opportunities available to the obligee
or private child support collector to cancel the contract or other
conditions under which the contract terminates.
(7) The mailing address, street address, telephone numbers,
facsimile numbers, and Internet address or location of the private
child support collector.
(8) A statement that the private child support collector is not a
governmental entity and that governmental entities in California
provide child support collection and enforcement services free of
(9) A statement that the private child support collector collects
only money owed to the obligee and not support assigned to the state
or county due to the receipt of CalWORKs or Temporary Assistance to
(10) A statement that the private child support collector will not
retain fees from collections that are primarily attributable to the
actions of a governmental entity or any other person or entity and is
required by law to refund any fees improperly retained.
(11) A statement that the obligee may continue to receive, or may
pursue, services through a governmental entity to collect support,
and the private child support collection agency will not require or
request that the obligee cease or refrain from engaging those
(12) A notice that the private child support collector is required
to keep and maintain case records for a period of four years and
four months, after the expiration of the contract and may thereafter
destroy or otherwise dispose of the records. The obligee may, prior
to destruction or disposal, retrieve those portions of the records
that are not confidential.
(13) A "Notice of Cancellation," which shall be included with the
contract and which shall contain, in the same size font as the
contract, the following statement, written in the same language as
"Notice of Cancellation
You may cancel this contract, without any
penalty or obligation, within 15
business days from the date the contract is
signed or you receive this notice,
whichever is later, or at any time if the
private child support collector
commits a material breach of any provision
of the contract or a material
violation of any provision of this chapter
with respect to the obligee or the
obligor, or _____________________________
(all other reasons for
To cancel this contract, mail or deliver a
signed copy of this cancellation
notice or any other written notice to
private child support collector) at
(address for mail or
delivery) no later than midnight on
I am canceling this
(14) The following statement by the obligee on the first page of
"I understand that this contract calls for (name of private child
support collector) to collect money owed to me, and not money owed to
the state or county. If child support is owed to the state or county
because I am receiving or have received program benefits from
CalWORKs or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, then (name of
private child support collector) cannot collect that money for me. If
I start to receive program benefits from CalWORKs or Temporary
Assistance to Needy Families during this contract, I must notify
(name of private child support collector) in writing."
"I declare by my signature below that the child support to be
collected for me pursuant to this contract is not assigned to the
state or county as of the time I sign this contract. I agree that I
will give written notice to the private child support collector if I
apply for program benefits under CalWORKs or Temporary Assistance to
Needy Families during the term of this contract."
(15) (A) The following statement by the obligee immediately above
the signature line of the contract:
"I understand that (name of private child support collector) will
charge a fee for all the current child support and arrears it
collects for me until the entire contract amount is collected or the
contract terminates for another reason. I also understand that
depending on the frequency and size of payments, it could take years
for the amount specified in my contract to be collected. This means
that if (name of private child support collector) is collecting my
current support by wage withholding or other means, I will not
receive the full amount of my periodic court-ordered current support
until the contract terminates since (name of private child support
collector) will be deducting its fee from the periodic court-ordered
current support it collects for me."
(B) The statement required by subparagraph (A) shall:
(i) Be in a type size that is at least equal to one-quarter of the
largest type size used in the contract. In no event shall the
disclosure be printed in less than 8-point type.
(ii) Be in a contrasting style, and contrasting color or bold
type, which is equally or more visible than the type used in the
(b) The disclosures required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (a)
of Section 5612 shall be printed in the contract, as follows:
(1) In a type size that is at least equal to one-quarter of the
largest type size used in the contract. In no event shall the
disclosure be printed in less than 8-point type.
(2) In a contrasting style, and contrasting color or bold type
that is equally or more visible than the type used in the contract.
(3) Immediately above, below, or beside the stated fee without any
intervening words, pictures, marks, or symbols.
(4) In the same language as the contract.
(a) Each private child support collector:
(1) That charges any initial fee, processing fee, application fee,
filing fee, or other fee or assessment that must be paid by an
obligee regardless of whether any child support collection is made on
behalf of the obligee shall make the following disclosure in every
radio, television, or print advertisement intended for a target
audience consisting primarily of California residents:
"(Name of private child support collector) is not a governmental
entity and charges an upfront fee for its services even if it does
not collect anything."
(2) That does not charge any fee or assessment specified in
paragraph (1) shall make the following disclosure in every radio,
television, or print advertisement aired for a target audience
consisting primarily of California residents:
"(Name of private child support collector) is not a governmental
entity and charges a fee for its services."
(b) The disclosures required in subdivision (a) shall also be
stated during the first 30 seconds of any initial telephone
conversation with an obligee and in the private child support
(a) An obligee shall have the right to cancel a contract with
a private support collector under either of the following
(1) Within 15 business days of the later of signing the contract,
or receiving a blank notice of cancellation form, or at any time if
the private child support collector commits a material breach of any
provision of the contract or a material violation of any provision of
this chapter with respect to the obligee or the obligor.
(2) At the end of any 12-month period in which the total amount
collected by the private child support collector is less than 50
percent of the amount scheduled to be paid under a payment plan.
(b) A contract shall automatically terminate when the contract
term has expired or the contract amount has been collected, whichever
(a) A private child support collector shall do all of the
(1) (A) Provide to an obligee all of the following information:
(i) The name of, and any other identifying information relating
to, any obligor who made child support payments collected by the
private child support collector.
(ii) The amount of support collected by the private child support
(iii) The date on which each amount was received by the private
child support collector.
(iv) The date on which each amount received by the private child
support collector was sent to the obligee.
(v) The amount of the payment sent to the obligee.
(vi) The source of payment of support collected and the actions
affirmatively taken by the private child support collector that
resulted in the payment.
(vii) The amount and percentage of each payment kept by the
private child support collector as its fee.
(B) The information required by paragraph (A) shall be made
available, at the option of the obligee, by mail, telephone, or via
secure Internet access. If provided by mail, the notice shall be sent
at least quarterly and, if provided by any other method, the
information shall be updated and made available at least monthly.
Information accessed by telephone and the Internet shall be up to
(2) Establish a direct deposit account with the state disbursement
unit and shall within two business days from the date the funds are
disbursed from the state disbursement unit to the private child
support collector, if a portion of the funds constitute an obligor's
fee, notify the Department of Child Support Services of the portion
of each collection that constitutes a fee. The notification shall be
sent by the private child support collector to the department in an
electronic format to be determined by the department.
(3) Maintain records of all child support collections made on
behalf of a client who is an obligee. The records required under this
section shall be maintained by the private child support collector
for the duration of the contract plus a period of four years and four
months from the date of the last child support payment collected by
the private child support collector on behalf of an obligee. In
addition to information required by paragraph (1), the private child
support collector shall maintain the following:
(A) A copy of the order establishing the child support obligation
under which a collection was made by the private child support
(B) Records of all correspondence between the private child
support collector and the obligee or obligor in a case.
(C) Any other pertinent information relating to the child support
obligation, including any case, cause, or docket number of the court
having jurisdiction over the matter and official government payment
records obtained by the private child support collector on behalf of,
and at the request of, the obligee.
(4) Safeguard case records in a manner reasonably expected to
prevent intentional or accidental disclosure of confidential
information pertaining to the obligee or obligor, including providing
necessary protections for records maintained in an automated system.
(5) Ensure that every person who contracts with a private child
support collector has the right to review all files and documents,
both paper and electronic, in the possession of the private child
support collector for the information specified in this paragraph
regarding that obligee's case that are not required by law to be kept
confidential. The obligee, during regular business hours, shall be
provided reasonable access to and copies of the files and records of
the private child support collector regarding all moneys received,
collection attempts made, fees retained or paid to the private child
support collector, and moneys disbursed to the obligee. The private
child support collector may not charge a fee for access to the files
and records, but may require the obligee to pay up to three cents
($0.03) per page for the copies prior to their release.
(6) Provide, prior to commencing collection activities, written
notice of any contract with an obligee to the local child support
agency that is enforcing the obligee's support order, if known, or
the local child support agency for the county in which the obligee
resides as of the time the contract is signed by the obligee. The
notice shall identify the obligee, the obligor, and the amount of the
arrearage claimed by the obligee.
(b) A private child support collector shall not do any of the
(1) Charge fees on current support if the obligee received any
current child support during the six months preceding execution of
the contract with the private child support collector. A private
child support collector shall inquire of the obligee and record the
month and year of the last current support payment and may rely on
information provided by the obligee in determining whether a fee may
be charged on current support.
(2) Improperly retain fees from collections that are primarily
attributable to the actions of a governmental entity. The private
child support collector shall refund all of those fees to the obligee
immediately upon discovery or notice of the improper retention of
(3) Collect or attempt to collect child support by means of any
conduct that is prohibited of a debt collector collecting a consumer
debt under Sections 1788.10 to 1788.16, inclusive, of the Civil Code.
This chapter does not modify, alter, or amend the definition of a
debt or a debt collector under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (Title 1.6C (commencing with Section 1788) of Part 4 of
Division 3 of the Civil Code).
(4) Misstate the amount of the fee that may be lawfully paid to
the private child support collector for the performance of the
contract or the identity of the person who is obligated to pay that
(5) Make a false representation of the amount of child support to
be collected. A private child support collector is not in violation
of this paragraph if it reasonably relied on sufficient documentation
provided by the government entity collecting child support, a court
with jurisdiction over the support obligation, or from the obligee,
or upon sufficient documentation provided by the obligor.
(6) Ask any party other than the obligor to pay the child support
obligation, unless that party is legally responsible for the
obligation or is the legal representative of the obligor.
(7) Require, on or after January 1, 2007, as a condition of
providing services to the obligee, that the obligee waive any right
or procedure provided for in any state law regarding the right to
file and pursue a civil action, or that the obligee agree to resolve
disputes in a jurisdiction outside of California or to the
application of laws other than those of California, as provided by
law. Any waiver by the obligee of the right to file and pursue a
civil action, the right to file and pursue a civil action in
California, or the right to rely upon California law as provided by
law must be knowing, voluntary, and not made a condition of doing
business with the private child support collector. Any waiver,
including, but not limited to, an agreement to arbitrate or regarding
choice of forum or choice of law, that is required as a condition of
doing business with the private child support collector, shall be
presumed involuntary, unconscionable, against public policy, and
unenforceable. The private child support collector has the burden of
proving that any waiver of rights, including any agreement to
arbitrate a claim or regarding choice of forum or choice of law, was
knowing, voluntary, and not made a condition of the contract with the
(a) (1) A person may bring an action for actual damages
incurred as a result of a violation of this chapter.
(2) In addition to actual damages, a private child support
collector who willfully and knowingly violates the provisions of this
chapter shall be liable for a civil penalty in an amount determined
by the court, which may not be less than one hundred dollars ($100)
nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).
(3) (A) The prevailing party in any action pursuant to this
chapter shall be entitled to recover the costs of the action.
Reasonable attorney's fees, which shall be based on the time
necessarily expended to enforce the liability, shall be awarded to a
prevailing party, other than the private child support collector,
asserting rights under this chapter. Reasonable attorney's fees may
be awarded to a prevailing private child support collector if the
court finds that the party bringing the action did not prosecute the
action in good faith.
(B) In an action by an obligor under this chapter, the private
child support collector shall have no civil liability under this
chapter to the obligor under any circumstance in which a debt
collector would not have civil liability under Section 1788.30 of the
(4) A private child support collector is not in violation of this
chapter if the private child support collector shows, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the action complained of was not
intentional and resulted from a bona fide error that occurred
notwithstanding the use of reasonable procedures to avoid the error.
(5) The remedies provided in this section are cumulative and are
in addition to any other procedures, rights, or remedies available
under any other law.
(b) Any waiver of the rights, requirements, and remedies provided
by this chapter violates public policy and is void.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, including
provisions establishing a right of cancellation and requiring notice
thereof, any contract for the collection of child support between an
attorney who is a "private child support collector" pursuant to
Section 5610 shall conform to the statutes, rules, and case law
governing attorney conduct, including the provisions of law providing
that a contract with an attorney is cancelable by the attorney's
client at any time. Upon cancellation of that contract, the attorney
may seek compensation as provided by law, including, if applicable, a
claim for the reasonable value of any services rendered to the
attorney's client pursuant to the doctrine of quantum meruit,
provided those services lead to the collection of support and the
compensation is limited to what would have been collected had the
contract been in effect. To the extent that the provisions of this
chapter are in conflict with the provisions of state law governing
the conduct of attorneys, this chapter shall control. If there is no
conflict, an attorney who is a "private child support collector"
pursuant to Section 5610 shall conform to the provisions of this
(a) Every court order for child support issued on or after
January 1, 2010, and every child support agreement providing for the
payment of child support approved by a court on or after January 1,
2010, shall include a separate money judgment owed by the child
support obligor to pay a fee not to exceed 33 and 1/3 percent of the
total amount in arrears, and not to exceed 50 percent of the fee as
charged by a private child support collector pursuant to a contract
complying with this chapter and any other child support collections
costs expressly permitted by the child support order for the
collection efforts undertaken by the private child support collector.
The money judgment shall be in favor of the private child support
collector and the child support obligee, jointly, but shall not
constitute a private child support collector lien on real property
unless an abstract of judgment is recorded pursuant to subdivision
(d). Except as provided in subdivision (c), the money judgment may be
enforced by the private child support collector by any means
available to the obligee for the enforcement of the child support
order without any additional action or order by the court. Nothing in
this chapter shall be construed to grant the private child support
collector any enforcement remedies beyond those authorized by federal
or state law. Any fee collected from the obligor pursuant to a
contract complying with this chapter, shall not constitute child
(b) If the child support order makes the obligor responsible for
payment of collection fees and costs, fees that are deducted by a
private child support collector may not be credited against child
support arrearages or interest owing on arrearages or any other money
owed by the obligor to the obligee.
(c) If the order for child support requires payment of collection
fees and costs by the obligor, then not later than five days after
the date that the private child support collector makes its first
collection, written notice shall be provided to the obligor of (1)
the amount of arrearages subject to collection, (2) the amount of the
collection that shall be applied to the arrearage, and (3) the
amount of the collection that shall be applied to the fees and costs
of collection. The notice shall provide that, in addition to any
other procedures available, the obligor has 30 days to file a motion
to contest the amount of collection fees and costs assessed against
(d) Any fees or monetary obligations resulting from the contract
between an obligee parent and a private child support collector, or
moneys owed to a private child support collector by the obligor
parent or obligee parent as a result of the private child support
collector's efforts, does not create a lien on real property, unless
an abstract of judgment is obtained from the court and recorded by
the private child support collector against the real property in the
county in which it is located, nor shall that amount be added to any
existing lien created by a recorded abstract of support or be added
to an obligation on any abstract of judgment. A private child support
collector lien shall have the force, effect, and priority of a
(e) An assignment to a private child support collector is a
voluntary assignment for the purpose of collecting the domestic
support obligation as defined in Section 101 of Title 11 of the
United States Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. Sec. 101 (14 A)).