Past due child support may be one of the most formidable debts you can owe. If you pay your obligation through state services, state governments typically pursue any unpaid debts. If you pay the parent of your child directly and fall behind, he or she could turn the debt over to a collection agency, and might do so even if you are paying through the state.
Private Collection AgenciesSome collection agencies specialize in collecting back child support, and your children’s other parent may elect to use one of them even if you’re paying through the state. The option exists to bypass state collection resources, and the parent of your child might do this because private agencies sometimes work more quickly than the state.
If this option is exercised, both pros and cons exist for you. Private agencies may be more persistent; with the state, your account is just one among many thousands, so the same amount of time may not be devoted to collecting your debts. Depending on the laws in your state, however, private agencies may have fewer options for collecting. The state can usually take certain collection measures that aren’t available to private agencies.
Your Credit ReportRegardless of whether or not the state or a private agency pursues collection of your unpaid child support, your delinquent child support obligation can be reported to the credit bureaus. In some states, you’ll receive a warning before this happens and you may have a window of time within which to catch up your account.
Other Enforcement MeasuresState child support enforcement units have a variety of other options at their disposal. They can notify the federal government, which can intercept your tax refund. The court can also issue order to garnish your wages or gain access to withdraw from your checking account. They can even revoke your driver’s license until you pay. Given that other creditors typically can’t do these things, you may be better off paying your child support first and worrying about your other debts later.
You Have OptionsChild support is the result of a court order, and you always have the option of trying to change the order if you’re facing financial difficulty and can’t make your payments. This usually involves filing a petition with the court that issued the order and establishing that something has changed since the order was issued, such as losing your job. This typically does not affect your past due balance, but it will at least lower your future payments so the situation doesn’t get any worse.
If the state is pursuing you for payment, you can also contact the child support enforcement unit and try to work something out, much as you would with a collection agency for other debts. The unit may agree to not report your delinquent account to the credit bureaus if you enter into a payment plan to catch up with your arrears.
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About the Author
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law.
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.