Federal Legislation Would Expand Ability of State Child Support Agencies to Obtain Credit Reports for Non-Paying Parents

GotCredit [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via FlickrThe U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill intended to help state child support agencies obtain credit information about child support obligors who are in arrears. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), when a state child support agency requests credit information about an individual, that individual is currently entitled to 10 days’ notice of the request. H.R. 2091, the “Child Support Assistance Act of 2015,” amends the FCRA to remove the 10-day notice period, ostensibly to deny non-paying parents a 10-day opportunity to alter their finances. The bill is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

Credit information, including debt history, payments on debts, lack of payments on debts, and other details, has become critically important for consumers. Private businesses known as “consumer reporting agencies,” or “credit bureaus,” collect consumers’ credit information and compile it into credit reports, which are available upon request to certain individuals or businesses for a fee. The FCRA allows individuals to obtain a free copy of their own credit report once a year from each of the “big three” credit bureaus:  Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

The FCRA regulates how and when credit bureaus may provide credit reports to requesters. Under § 604(a) of the FCRA, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1681b, state child support agencies are permitted to request a parent’s credit report to determine whether the parent is capable of making child support payments, and if so, determining the amount they can pay. This section of the FCRA currently requires the state agency to give notice of the request to the parent “by certified or registered mail to [their] last known address” at least 10 days in advance of obtaining the credit report.

According to the report on H.R. 2091 from the House Financial Services Committee, which cited claims from “state and local child support agencies,” some parents use this 10-day notification period as an “opportunity to hide savings and other assets, run up credit card debt, and take other financial or employment actions to avoid or reduce child support payments.” This results in further delays in payments to custodial parents, and additional costs for state and local agencies.

H.R. 2091 amends § 604(a) of the FCRA by removing the 10-day notification requirement. It also replaces a reference to “paternity” with the word “parentage,” since both mothers and fathers can be custodial parents, both mothers and fathers can be non-custodial parents in arrears on child support, and some children have two mothers or two fathers. The bill was introduced in the House in April 2015. On October 6, it passed out of the Financial Services Committee and was approved by a voice vote of the House. As of October 7, it is pending in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Disputes over child support and child custody in New York often present multiple concerns and problems. They therefore require extensive and careful planning with the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced New York child support lawyer, who can help you understand your rights and obligations and prepare the best possible case for you. For the past 30 years, Ingrid Gherman has practiced family law in New York City. Contact us today online or at (212) 941-0767 today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Paternity Remains a Difficult Legal Issue in New York Family Law Cases, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, October 27, 2015

New York Lawsuit Accuses Parent of Obtaining Information to Use In Child Support Modification Case by Hacking, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, October 22, 2015

Calculating Child Support Obligations in New York Divorce Cases, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, October 12, 2015

Photo credit: GotCredit [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr.