UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
June 26, 1995
Lawrence C. Samuels, Director
Dear Mr. Samuels:
This responds to your correspondence dated May 30, 1995, in which you asked for a staff opinion letter concerning the applicability of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") to the collection of delinquent child and spousal support and other obligations resulting from divorce decrees. You specified three particular types of obligations that arise from such decrees: (1) money or property rights, (2) child support, and (3) spousal support.
The term "debt" is defined in Section 803(5) of the FDCPA to include only obligations incurred from a "transaction (involving purchase of) property ... or services ... for personal, family or household purposes." In most cases, there would be no "debt" under the FDCPA in the situations you describe, because of the lack of the type of "transaction" used as the basis for the definition. Support obligations arise from spousal and parental duties, not from transactions. If the "money or property rights" you mentioned result from such a transaction between the parties, a "debt" would exist; otherwise it would not, and the FDCPA would not apply to efforts by any party to collect it. This analysis conforms to that set forth in comment 803(5)-2 in our Staff Commentary on the FDCPA. 53 Fed. Reg. 50097, 50102 (Dec. 13, 1988).
This staff opinion letter consists of the present enforcement position of the staff, but is not binding on the Commission.
Clarke W. Brinckerhoff