Can I Sell My House If I Owe Child Support?

If you’re facing the complex situation of selling your home while owing child support, you likely have a huge number of questions and concerns about what you can and can’t do legally. If you add to that uncertainty about your future or a home that may not sell quickly, the stress can quickly become overwhelming.

Fortunately, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll guide you through a complete overview of what you should know about selling a home in Massachusetts when you owe child support so you can make the right decisions for yourself and your family.

Can child support debt stop you from selling your house?

Generally speaking, no, it won’t, but that’s not to say that unpaid child support won’t disrupt the process of selling your house. In Massachusetts (and many other states), unpaid child support can lead to having a lien placed on your home. A lien is a legal claim to some of the value of your home, which in the case of child support debt, may be placed on your home by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

A lien will not stop you from selling your home, but it will complicate the process. In most cases, the lien will need to be satisfied (i.e., paid off) when the sale completes. That means that a portion of the sale amount will go to satisfying that debt.

It’s also worth noting that potential buyers will know about the lien, and it can be a stumbling block for them, so make sure you work with a realtor who knows about the lien and can market your property appropriately. You should speak to an attorney for individual and current guidance.

How to sell your house when you owe child support

If there is a lien on your property due to unpaid child support, selling your home will be more complicated. Homes with a lien are often deemed “unmortgageable” by lenders, making it almost impossible for you to find a buyer. This means you must seek a cash buyer for the property, and understand that your profit from the sale will only come after the lien (and any other liens) are paid.

So for example, if there is a lien for $30,000 on your home for unpaid child support, and your home sells for $300,000, your profit from the sale will be $170,000, provided you own the property completely. If you have a mortgage, that debt will also have to be satisfied.

When is a lien placed on a home for owed child support in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, a lien can be placed on a home for owed child support when the noncustodial parent falls behind on child support payments. This action is typically taken by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR), Child Support Enforcement Division.

The DOR usually places a lien on a home when there’s a significant amount of child support debt, though the exact amount can vary. It’s important to note that this is typically not the first step in the child support enforcement process. Before resorting to placing a lien, the DOR often attempts to collect the debt through other means, such as income withholding, bank levies, intercepting tax refunds, or suspending license, so a lien will never come as a surprise or be placed on the property without your knowledge.

Who buys houses with liens on them?

When you’re looking to sell a home with a lien on it, you’ll be exclusively looking for a cash buyer. While you can find traditional buyers looking for a home to buy outright in cash, the majority of potential buyers will be investors and professional home buyers.

We are a professional home buyer and so we have plenty of experience buying homes with liens and other complicating factors. We pay cash for homes and can close quickly (in as little as 2 weeks), meaning you can pay off the lien and move on with your life as soon as possible. For many, this is just the recalibration they need to get back on track with their child support payments and start feeling like they are fully able to be a part of their child’s life again.

Do you have to pay off owed child support when you sell if there is not a lien on the property?

No, you are not technically required to use the proceeds from the sale to pay off your debt. However, you should realize that the unpaid debt will not simply vanish – it may lead to a lien on a future property you own or other consequences. Some of the ramifications of continuing to have unpaid child support are:

  • Impact on your credit score: In Massachusetts (and many other states), overdue child support payments are reported to credit bureaus, which will lead to a damaged credit score and more difficulty getting financial products.
  • Income withholding: The DOR can intervene and withhold your income if you do not keep up with your payments.
  • Interception of tax refunds: Similarly, they can take your tax refunds before you receive them.
  • Suspension of licenses: This includes professional licenses (which may make it impossible for you to work legally) and even your driver’s license.
  • Jail time: You can even face jail time if you do not keep up with your child support obligations.

All these consequences are unpleasant and can seriously disrupt your ability to make money and live your life, so it’s best to pay off your debt and get back on track with your child support payments as soon as possible. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, make sure you communicate these problems with the other parent (even if it’s embarrassing to do so) and ask to set up a payment plan. You can also reach out to a legal aid service that can help you take the right next steps.

We can help you move forward

Whether you’re navigating a lien placed on your property due to unpaid child support or simply facing overdue child support payments, we understand that these circumstances can be daunting and stressful. Rest assured, we’re here to help. As a professional home-buying company, we offer cash for homes, providing a speedy and straightforward solution to your complex situation.

By selling your home to us, you can utilize the proceeds to pay off your owed child support. Remember, paying off this debt is not just about getting back on track with your finances, but can also allow you to play a bigger role in your child’s life if the debt hanging over your head caused you to take a step back.

All you need to do is contact us with a few details about your home and we’ll contact you with our best cash offer. If you accept, we can complete the sale in as little as 2 weeks (if you’re ready to move quickly), so you get a fresh start. To learn more about how we buy homes, or to get a no-obligation cash offer for your home, click here.

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