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Does My Credit Suffer If I Miss A Child Support Payment?

July 31, 2014
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Look, it’s no fun being divorced. It is even less fun being a divorced parent who makes child support payments, because you likely feel that you are giving money to your former spouse, rather than your children. It is easy to get wrapped up in resentment and feelings of being treated unfairly in making these child support payments.

The truth, however, is that unless your former spouse is stealing those child support payments for another purpose (highly unlikely), that money really is going for your children’s welfare. That’s something that should make you feel good. Despite the fact that the marriage has dissolved, you are doing the right thing by making child support payments for your kids, the most important thing on the planet.

Credit at risk

Nevertheless, there may be some people who aren’t making those child support payments at all. Maybe you are accidentally late on occasion because you have other obligations to meet first. Dealing with the regular consequences is bad enough.

Yet, now you may have another reason to be more diligent: Late or missing child support payments may harm your credit.

Child support payments are a particularly onerous issue in regards to credit reporting. The credit bureaus are required to include delinquent support payments in your file. That means that paying on time does nothing whatsoever to help your credit, but missing a payment will ding you, and likely in a very bad way.

Big Brother is indeed watching

Specifically, most state agencies will report parents who are more than $1,000 behind in the aggregate. If you are overdue by 6 months or more, the missed child support payment(s) show up as accounts in collection.

Some states do require child support enforcement agencies to get in touch with you before they attack your credit. Most states are going to give you reminders, if not outright warnings, in any event.

Even worse, if you get taken to court over delinquent child support payments, you may end up with 1) a court lien on your assets, or 2) a court judgment, or both. Those will devastate your credit.

Missed child support payments are as bad as bankruptcy, in that they stay on your report for as long as seven years.

Why child support goes on your credit

As if maintaining good credit wasn’t difficult enough, missing a child support payment can make things even worse. But why is this such a big deal?

Think about how creditors view this behavior. They think, “If this person isn’t even able or willing to take care of their own kids with on-time child support payments, why should we trust him to pay us, an unsecured creditor?”

Keep records

As with any other payment that involves your credit, keep receipts and even check copies. This should be a regular routine you manage each time you mail a payment.

Write the check. Make a copy of it along with a statement or letter to your ex-spouse. Mail it. When the check is cashed, download and print a copy of it and clip the package together. Do this each and every month, just in case an erroneous report goes to the credit bureau. You’ll have proof to dispute the erroneous report.

Family split image via Shutterstock