Keeping child support arrears from your credit record usually requires direct negotiation with either child support services, or the credit bureau itself. Your ex is probably not to blame if your child support debt turns up on your credit report: Federal law requires states to report arrears to the credit bureaus when balances top $1,000. Balances less than this are at the mercy of each state’s laws, and some states are more forgiving than others. Minnesota, for example, can report you if you owe $1 in arrears.
Talk to Child Support Services
If the balance hasn’t been reported yet, you may be able to negotiate with state services not to do so if you can pay even a portion of what you owe. If the agency does report you—and it would have to if your balance remains over $1,000—you might be able to work something out in exchange for a payment so that not all the negative information appears. This might affect your credit score a little less. If you can pay all of what you owe after the arrears have been reported, your support obligation may still appear on your credit report, but it will show that you’re current. The fact that you were delinquent at one point in time might still show up.
Best Case, Worst Case
If your ex will work with you to save the situation, the agency might even remove the debt from your report entirely, although this might require both your ex's consent and approval from the court. You would have to file a motion asking for a judge’s approval, but if your ex agrees, there’s a chance he’ll give it. On the other hand, the relationship between lenders, your credit report and child support services sometimes works both ways. Not only will the state report you to the credit bureaus if you owe arrears and aren't paying, but creditors can report your last known address to the state child support agency if they note that you’re in arrears.
Add a Note to Your Credit Report
If your state's child support services and the court won’t help you, you have one more option. Contact the credit bureaus and arrange to attach a short letter to your report. When anyone looks at your report, they’ll see your note as well, explaining how the arrears came about if you have a good reason for them, such as job loss. You also can report the information to the credit bureaus as an error if you don’t believe you owe the balance. This obligates each agency to reach out to your state’s child support services and investigate the situation.
You Should Have Warning
You won’t have to wait until you’re denied a loan to find out that your child support balance has appeared on your credit history. If your ex is collecting support through state services—you pay the state, then the state pays your ex— the agency must send you written notice before reporting your delinquent account to the credit agencies. If you pay your balance within an allotted time, usually a few weeks, that’s the end of it; your credit score is spared. Most states also offer you the option of contesting that you owe the money by asking for an administrative review to sort things out.