Can You Remove Paid-Off Child Support From Your Credit Report?
Missed child support payments can tarnish your credit file like any other missed debt payment. Even if you are able to pay off delinquent child support accounts, those negative marks don’t just disappear. Overdue child support payments are required to be included on your credit report, and they remain there for up to seven years.
That being said, if you have paid off your entire child support obligation and the account still appears in bad standing on your credit file, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus to potentially have it updated.
Here’s what you need to know.
What happens when you pay off a child support account
If your child support account was never late, it will never appear on your credit report, explained Miranda Vance, a financial coach for AAA Fair Credit.
“Credit is only built by borrowing money and paying it back on time and in full,” said Vance.
That means monthly payments on things like auto insurance, utilities and phones do not typically build your score because you never actually borrowed money. But if you miss a payment on these accounts, they can appear on your credit report and drag down your score. Child support works the same way.
Once you miss a child support payment, that late payment is considered a debt and can hurt your credit, taking up to seven years to fall off your report.
That doesn’t mean that paying off a child support account won’t improve your credit. Once you’ve paid off a child support account, it should be updated to show that you paid it in full.
According to Martin Lynch, director of education and compliance manager at Cambridge Credit Counseling, lenders care most about your recent credit activity, so recent marks showing an account was paid in full can offset the negative impact of older marks showing it was once overdue.
Can you remove paid-off child support from your credit report?
You cannot remove accurate information from your credit report. However, if you’ve paid off child support and it’s still showing up on your credit report as delinquent, you can — and should — take action. Child support collections agencies collect and track your payments, but they sometimes fail to report your payments properly.
McKenzie Walsh, a certified financial counselor at the nonprofit AAA Fair Credit Foundation, said some credit reports she’s pulled don’t show updated child support payments from years ago. If that happens, she advised contacting the credit bureaus right way.
“It’s up to the consumer to report their payments” to all three credit bureaus, Walsh said.
Get proof that the account was paid off. Before you reach out to the bureaus, get in touch with the child support collections agency you’ve been paying to ensure that the account is actually paid off. Then gather proof of those payments.
“Meticulous record-keeping is key,” said Val Kleyman, divorce lawyer and founding member of Kleyman Law Firm, as you’ll be required to provide documentation of your payments when it comes time to dispute incorrect information on your credit report.
If you haven’t been keeping receipts of your payments, you can request a report from your child support collections agency showing what you’ve paid.
Contact the three credit bureaus to file a dispute. Once you have documents proving the account is paid off, it’s time to dispute the delinquent account with the credit reporting agencies. You’ll need to notify all three major credit bureaus of the issue and contest it with them, which you can do through their websites, over the phone or by mail.
It’s wise to communicate with them in writing whenever possible so that you can keep records of those communications. When providing documentation to the credit bureaus, always send copies rather than originals.
In most cases, these credit reporting agencies will have 30 days to investigate your claim, after which you’ll receive a written statement of the results. If the dispute resulted in changes to your credit report, you’ll receive a free and updated copy.
The credit reporting agencies are also required to give you the contact information for the lender or collections agency that provided them with information regarding your account during the investigation. If you feel that your dispute wasn’t resolved correctly, you can contact this information provider — likely your child support collections unit — to go over your payment records.
Once the issue is resolved and the account is paid in full, any late payments will still show up on your credit report for seven years from the date of the original delinquency, but the child support account will now show up as paid in full. If you never actually missed any child support payments, then that account should come off of your credit report altogether once your dispute is properly resolved.
Two of the best things you can do to repair your credit are disputing inaccurate information and paying off delinquent accounts. Even if your credit history shows that you’ve missed payments on child support in the past, turning that around and showing that you’ve since paid off that account will undoubtedly help your credit by showing future lenders that you’re ready to be financially responsible.