Unpaid child support is a debt, and like most debts, can appear on your credit report. In most states the child support enforcement agency is required to report unpaid support debts once they reach $1,000. However, enforcement agencies can exercise discretion and report lesser amounts. Many states are also required to notify you before reporting the debt to the credit bureaus. You will then have a reasonable time to dispute the amount of the debt.

If you are notified by your state’s child support enforcement agency that you have a debt, you should respond as soon as possible. You might be able to work out an arrangement with the enforcement agency to begin paying off the debt in exchange for them not reporting it to the credit bureaus. The child support enforcement agency can assist with a plan that allows you to continue paying and not increase the debt.

A child support debt reported to the credit bureaus can show up on your credit report in a few different ways. First, it might be classified as a “collection.” Unpaid debts in collection are reported by child support enforcement agencies or when the custodial parent turns to a collection agency for help collecting the past due support.

Unpaid child support might appear on your credit report as a court judgment following a court proceeding initiated by a child support enforcement agency or custodial parent. A court judgment might lead to enforcement measures such as wage garnishment, property lien, or confiscation of the non-custodial parent’s tax refund.

Unpaid child support debts classified as “collections” or as “court judgments” will have a negative effect on your credit score. Those kinds of debts can lower your score by as much as 100 points.

An unpaid support debt might also be on your credit report as a “tradeline.” Tradeline is a term used by the credit reporting agencies to refer to all of the credit accounts on your report. Federal law requires child support enforcement agencies to report the names of noncustodial parents who owe overdue child support debt and the amount of support they owe. That information appears as a tradeline or credit account and does not impact your credit score.

However, because the unpaid support obligation appears on the report, lenders or creditors may consider it when evaluating an application for credit. It might still negatively impact your ability to secure a car loan, credit card, mortgage, or other line of credit.

What If I Owe Support but Pay Off My Overdue Balance?

Paying off the balance of unpaid child support will not remove the debt from your credit report. Instead, like with most other debts, it will be marked, “satisfied.” The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) limits how long negative information can remain on a credit report.

Generally, negative information should be removed from your credit report after seven years. It is important to check your credit report to make sure that inaccurate information is removed and debts that have been settled are removed after seven years.

What Can I Do So That My Unpaid Child Support Does Not Affect My Credit?

If your unpaid support debt is large enough, it will appear on your credit report. It is important to make payments and continue making payments to hopefully avoid the unpaid support being sent to collections. A debt in collections has a much greater negative impact on your credit score. It can take a long time to increase your score once it has dropped due to an unpaid support debt in collections.

If you are having trouble making payments, reach out to your local child support enforcement agency. They can help you come up with a plan for making payments. You may also ask for a court hearing to request a modification to your child support payments. If your circumstances have changed significantly since the support order was first put in place, the court can modify how much you are required to pay.

If you think the information reported to the credit bureau is wrong and you do not owe unpaid child support, you can contest the credit report. Always contest information on your credit report in writing by sending a credit dispute letter to the credit bureaus..

Do I Need A Lawyer for Help with Child Support Issues?

A child support attorney can help you communicate with the child support enforcement agency regarding your unpaid child support obligation. Taking action to avoid negative information on your credit report will benefit you the most in the long term.

A low credit score can affect many aspects of your life, including the ability to acquire loans, take advantage of low interest rates, and get a credit card. An experienced child support attorney can counsel you on the best course of action to manage your unpaid support debt and minimize the damage to your credit.