Advice on Child Support and Credit Score

How does delinquent child support affect one's credit rating?

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Staff

Delinquent child support payments may negatively affect your credit rating, as they can be reported to the credit bureaus as a delinquent debt. Just like any other obligation which you fail to pay in a timely manner, the credit bureaus will calculate late child support payments into your credit score, which will likely reduce your score significantly.

A single late payment can lower your credit rating by as much as 20-30 points or more, depending on many factors such as your performance on other accounts, your debt to credit ratio, etc. Habitually late payments or an outstanding delinquent balance will likely do even more damage to your credit score, which will likely make obtaining any type of loan more difficult. To learn more about credit, credit scoring, and credit reports, I encourage you to visit the Credit Resources page.

How your child support payments will affect your credit rating will depend on how you are making the payments. If you are making your monthly child support payments directly to your child’s other parent, then a late payment will likely not appear on your credit report. However, if you are making your payments to a state child support agency or to a third-party child support collection firm, any delinquency in payments will likely be reported promptly to one or more of the three major U.S. consumer credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. In some states, the agency will give you 30 days to make the payment before reporting the information to the credit bureaus, while others do not give you this grace period.

You should keep in mind that failing to make your child support payments in a timely manner can result in much more serious consequences than damage to your credit rating. Depending on your state law, you could lose your driver’s license, have your wages garnished and bank accounts levied, or even receive jail time, in extreme cases. The federal government may also revoke your passport and deny other federal benefits. To avoid damage to your credit and the potential for these more serious consequences, as well as to meet your obligations as a parent, it is important that you pay your child support obligations in a timely manner.

If you are struggling to pay your court-ordered child support, you should communicate with your spouse or with the agency to which you are required to make the payments to try to work out alternative payment options. If your financial situation has changed, for example you lost your job, you can petition the court to modify your child support obligations on a temporary or permanent basis. I encourage you to consult with an attorney who specializes in domestic relations law if you need assistance in seeking a modification to your child support order. For more information about federal and state child support enforcement efforts, and for links to various programs that may be able to assist you if you are struggling with your child support payments, I encourage you to visit the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Web page Quick Start Information For Parents.

Child support is an important obligation which should come before many other expenses. However, if you are truly struggling to make your payments, there are various options available to assist you. I wish you the best of luck for the future, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.



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Comments (5)

Lee G.
Pasadena, TX  |  May 03, 2012
Paid my past due child support, how long does it take for it to drop off my credit?
May 04, 2012
Federal law requires accurate credit reporting. However, there is no definitive timeline in which the report needs to be updated. Regarding child support payments, the time it takes differs from state to state. Not being in arrears will help your score, but some damage will remain. Separate from the credit score impact, I suggest you get a statement from the child support authorities that your account is paid up-to-date. That way, you can show any prospective lender that you have addressed the problem that may still show on your report. Also, when you speak to the child support authorities, ask them how often they report to the credit bureaus.
Melinda I.
Richmond, IN  |  May 02, 2011
Hi I have 6 kids I payed child support for all of them and now my credit is ruined It has all been payed off and my children are all grown. None of them are in collage yet, the system is still taking 50 dollars a week for child support my ex-husband had payed it all off for me but apprently I got lost in the system and now I wish to purchase a house but I can not get a loan because the child support says I still havent payed it back. Also I havent had a tax check in several years. Darke county has been taking that as well.
October 05, 2009
Review your support order carefully to see if the entire balance is due on the first of the month. If so, even though you are intending to pay each month's support amount in the month, you are technically in arrears. However, if the PA policy is to ignore the details of your support order, then the policy is wrong and you may have a cause of action. Consult with an attorney in Pennsylvania who has experience in consumer law to see if he or she will take your case on a contingency basis.
Andre J.
October 05, 2009
Is it legal for a Child Support Agency to report balances as delinquent when the suppot is not past due? PA now accrues the balances monthly instead of each pay period. As a result, on every 1st of the month for that current month, they report to the credit bureau the full amount for the month instead of what may not have been payed in the prior month. As a result, each month, it appears on your credit that you are in arrears.
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