If someone falls behind in child support payments in Utah or 11 other states, it could ruin his credit rating.

And the Family Support Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants to see that happen in the 38 other states, too.The head of that administration, Wayne A. Stanton, issued a statement over the Thanksgiving holiday praising efforts by the 12 states that report delinquent child support payments to credit agencies and urged other states to begin doing the same.

"States that are routinely reporting child support debts to credit bureaus have found the procedure to be extremely effective in forcing absent parents to pay the overdue amount," Stanton said.

"We are actively encouraging states' efforts to develop systems that make banks, retailers and other credit grantors aware of an individual's unpaid child support responsibilities."

Twelve states have full or pilot programs to report such problems: Utah, Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Vermont.

According to the most recent Census Bureau report, almost $4 billion in legally ordered child support goes unpaid each year.

Stanton said programs to report the delinquency to credit agencies are needed to reduce that. Creditors should be especially interested in that information because under federal law, overdue child support is a superior lien on an individual's income.

"We believe that a credit rating, if it is to be truly accurate, must reflect a person's delinquent child support payments," Stanton said. "Routine reporting of child support debts will encourage absent parents to keep their payments current."