Michael Paskowitz, Esquire
Dear Mr. Paskowitz:
This is in response to your letter concerning the applicability for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") (15 U.S.C. 1692 et. seq.) and the Guides Against Debt Collection Deception (16 C.F.R. 237) to certain child support issues. You ask whether child support arrears, which has been reduced to judgment is to be considered a debt under the Act? If so, you ask (1) whether the person to whom such an obligation is owed is considered to be a creditor under the Act and, likewise, (2) whether the person who owes such an obligation is considered to be a debtor?
Finally, you ask whether ". . . the activities of an agency with whom the obligor contracts, are governed by the FDCPA and the regulations enacted pursuant thereto."
I am enclosing a copy of recent informal staff opinions that are dispositive of the issue of applicability of the FDCPA to the factual situations set out in your first three questions. I have also enclosed for your assistance a copy of the Staff Commentary on the FDCPA, 53 Fed. Reg. 50097 (December 13, 1988).
I do not understand question four. The contractual relationship to which you refer is unclear; likewise the nature of the debt and the identity of the agency you mention would be important to our answer. Without further information, therefore, I am unable to address this question.
You also inquire as to the applicability of the Guides Against Debt Collection Deception to the facts set out in your first three questions. Child support arrears would fall within the definition of debt as set out in 16 CFR 237.0 (b); the person to whom the obligation is owed would fall within the definition of creditor set out in 16 CFR 237.0 (d); finally, the person who owes such an obligation would fall within the definition of debtor as set out in 16 CFR 237.0 (c). Please bear in mind, however, that for all practical purposes, the Act has superseded the guides in terms of what we now actively enforce.
I hope this information will be helpful. The foregoing views are those of the Commission's staff and as such are not binding upon the Commission.
Please accept my apology for the tardiness of this reply, I can only plead the press of other matters.
Roger J. Fitzpatrick