Ask a Divorce Lawyer: Can child support arrears affect my student loans?

Question: Will me being behind on my child support affect my student loans for school? And what is an administrative lien?



Being behind in child support is never good – it impairs your credit (which could impair your student loan qualifications, depending on the lender) and in some states it impairs your driver’s and professional licenses. In Georgia, for example, the Secretary of State revoked professional licenses for dentists, barbers and other state-licensed professional who had child support arrears over a certain state-defined threshold. The payor and the state could have a lien (a right to priority payment over you or a third party you intend to pay) against your property and could garnish your wages, bank accounts and tax returns for payment. If your county is part of the federal program, then the county could intercept certain federal payments (most notably, tax returns, stimulus checks and retirement benefits), but not federal student loan payments.

You should seek a support modification immediately to avoid going further into child support debt. You may have a good argument to discharge your arrears or to enter a payment plan depending on the facts of your case. Courts are more likely to modify support and/or the payment plan and/or discharge arrears if the payor’s financial circumstances change (e.g., if you lose your job or you incur sizable student loan debt). This could be on a temporary basis while you are in school, and the amount could increase when you graduate to the pre-modification or higher amount. The modification and discharge criteria vary by state. You should consult with an attorney in your area to discuss what options, if any, you have based on the particular orders and facts in your case.  

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Texas. I can only give you general information in this answer. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parties in divorces do. Cordell & Cordell has offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.


Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. 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.

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