Child Support Enforcement:

Credit Bureau Reporting Shows Promise

HEHS-94-175: Published: Jun 3, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed child support agencies' reporting of child support information to credit bureaus, focusing on: (1) which noncustodial parents owing child support are reported to credit bureaus; (2) whether child support payment data are reported to the nation's major credit bureaus; (3) how the data are reported and the difficulty of using standardized credit bureau reporting formats; (4) the states' reporting costs; and (5) whether states evaluate the effect of credit bureau reporting on child support collections.

GAO found that: (1) 11 of the 16 states reviewed routinely report child support payment information to credit bureaus and 5 states report the information only at the request of the bureaus; (2) 10 of the states report only delinquent noncustodial parents, while California reports on all noncustodial parents; (3) credit bureaus and creditors prefer that all child support information be reported; (4) the 5 nonreporting states plan to start routine reporting on their delinquent accounts once their systems are automated; (5) the states generally report information that is less than 30 days old to all major credit bureaus; (6) some states have problems using the bureaus' automated and standardized reporting formats; (7) start up and operating costs for credit bureau reporting systems appear to be nominal, ranging from $12,900 to $300,000 and from $4,000 to $47,000, respectively; (8) the estimated costs to include all noncustodial parents in credit bureau reporting range from $8,600 to $80,800; and (9) the states have not evaluated the effects of credit bureau reporting on child support collections, but studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that routine credit reporting has a positive impact on enforcement.

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