Credit scores can be as low as 300 or as high as 850. They reflect how you manage debt and credit over time, and factor in overall payment history and amounts owed, as well as length of credit history. Child support obligations are only one variable in this larger scheme, but how you manage that responsibility can come back to haunt you. Missing even a single payment can lower a credit score by as much as 20 to 30 points.
While a long history of regular payments on mortgages and other loans reflects positively on a credit score, regular child support payments won't have that effect. Child support payments aren't reported to the credit bureaus -- unless there's a problem. Child support agencies are authorized by federal law to report delinquent amounts to all three credit bureaus. You get a 21-day grace period, upon receiving notice of the delinquency, to either pay or contest the amount. Otherwise, expect your credit report -- and score -- to reflect the arrears.
Pleading to child support agencies won't do any good in preventing child support payment delinquencies from being reported to credit agencies, because agencies cannot withhold such reporting. Moreover, even bankruptcy cannot erase your obligations, once a court orders you to provide child support. Regardless of your circumstances, child support will continue to be factored into the debt-to-available-credit ratios used to determine credit scores, and delinquencies remain on the credit report for seven years.
For the hardworking parent struggling to meet child support payments while keeping credit scores intact, making timely payments is the best recipe for maintaining good credit. If you receive a notice from a child support agency with incorrect information, contact the agency immediately to contest either the amount owed or confirm that you already paid. Also contact the three credit bureaus to make sure the misinformation does not appear on your report. If you are in dire straits, you can petition the court to modify your child support payments to match your circumstances.