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Can debt collectors go after kids?

Like many legal issues, the answer to that question is: it depends.

Minors under the age of 18 are not able to enter legally-enforceable contracts. What that means is that if your child is somehow able to take out a loan by himself, he cannot be pursued by a debt collector for failing to pay it back because there was never a legal agreement to repay the debt in the first place.

The child’s parents also cannot be pursued by the lender, generally speaking. However, there is an exception for medical care, which falls under the doctrine of necessities.

This legal doctrine holds that parents and next of kin can be held legally liable for the debts of their loved one if the debts were incurred out of necessities like food, shelter and medical care.

Since medical debt is one of the most common types of debt in the United States, this is an issue that comes up quite often. In many cases, it’s the parent who ends up liable for medical debt that was incurred while treating the child, even if the parent didn’t bring the child to the hospital.

So, what that means is while a debt collector cannot pursue a child for unpaid medical bills, the creditor might very well be able to come after the child’s parent for the debt. The debt can also appear on the parent’s credit report.

However, something else to be cautious about with debt collectors coming after children is identity theft. If a thief has stolen your child’s Social Security number, they could be using it to open credit accounts, potentially ruining your child’s credit score.

This article from USA TODAY explains the issue in more detail.

Call a bankruptcy lawyer in your area for more information on debt obligations regarding your children.

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