By Jennifer M. Paine
Most dads don’t mind paying child support – it’s when they fall a little bit behind and can’t catch a break that the problems erupt.
Maybe it’s the ex threatening to take him to court if he is even one day late. Maybe it’s her lawyer sending him a letter that his payment is past due, completed with a “friendly reminder” that he can be held in contempt of court and tossed into jail until he pays up.
Whatever it is, most guys dread the feeling of being labeled a “deadbeat dad” simply because they’ve fallen on hard times and can’t make their payments as timely as they once did.
Some of those guys work really hard to pay on time. They get second or third jobs and skip other bills to pay child support. Their ex and children might appreciate it, but they won’t get a glowing score on their credit report, as one might get for making timely mortgage, car and loan payments.
Worse, for those guys struggling to keep their payments current, the problems do not stop with their ex, her lawyer, and their kids.
Federal law allows the child support agency to report a delinquent payor who is just $1,000, and sometimes less, behind!
That delinquency will appear on all three of the national credit agency reports. Although it may not necessarily prevent the payor from obtaining loans, some loan officers may require the payor to bring the support account current or provide proof of a plan to do so before lending money.
Credit Reporting Process
The reporting process starts with a notice. If you receive this notice, do not ignore it! You have only 21 days, at most, to contact the state child support agency before the agency sends the information for credit reporting.
The notice must include your name and address, the amount of child support owed and your right to contest reporting. Check all of this information for accuracy.
Your right to contest reporting is not unfettered. Rather, you can only contest the amount claimed owed and whether you have made any payments since the child support agency mailed you the notice.
If the arrears amount is correct and meets the agency’s threshold for reporting, you must pay the arrears within 21 days to prevent reporting. Otherwise, it goes on your credit report.
If you try to prevail upon the agency to give you a break, you are probably out of luck. In many states, the child support agency does not have discretion to withhold reporting.
In other words, once you’ve hit the threshold, the agency must send your information off for credit reporting – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
My next article will address how to avoid credit reporting if you are heading toward the threshold.
Cordell & Cordell:
Jennifer M. Paine is a Michigan Divorce Lawyer with Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.