I am working on a case right now with a client to resolve two cases with significant “nonwelfare” and “welfare” arrears. It is a multi-jurisidictional case with one being in Northern California. Both cases are being enforced by the County of Los Angeles Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). My client was not aware that one custodial parent was receiving government assistance while making direct family support payments to the parent. As in all cases, there are intricacies which make each unique but the concepts of paying the arrears generally the same. I have written about the nonwelfare arrears settlement process, but this article will discuss the process of decreasing arrears owed to the government.
“Arrears” means past due support. Arrears are created when a child support order is made and there have periods of time in which payments were paid partially or not at all. If you owe arrears, you may be able to reduce the arrears (and interests) significantly. Arrears owed to the local child support agency for welfare may only be negotiated downward if certain requirements are met.
What is the Child Support Debt Program (also referred to and previously called the Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP)?
It is a debt reduction program for eligible participants with arrears owed to the state. Keep in mind that if the arrears have been assigned, defined as “welfare reimbursement” support arrears cannot be legally waived. In certain cases, the state allows a parent to pay less than his or her total child support debt owed to the government. The agency determines if you are eligible, and the eligibility requirements are very specific. If you qualify you may pay a reduced amount to satisfy your balance, rather than full amount due. Any reduction in your arrears will be based on your current income and assets.
The program does not forgive the entire debt, change current child support obligations, reduce arrears owed to the custodial parent (nonwelfare arrears) and reduce spousal support. The amount your past due child support debt can be lowered is determined by a formula based on your ability to pay and the facts of your case.
You may be eligible to have your past due child support debt lowered if you meet all of the following:
- You owe past due child support to the government because your child(ren) is receiving or has received public assistance.
- You agree to pay all the past due child support owed to the family.
- The past due child support you owe to the government is $5,000 or more.
- You can pay some of the past due child support owed to the government.
- You have not been found in contempt, or convicted of, failing to pay your child support in the last six months.
- You have not had an application denied in the last year.
- You have not had an application rescinded in the last two years.
- You do not have an open child support case in more than one county.
Any agreements between you and the local child support agency will be partially rescinded if the local child support agency finds any of the following:
- After the first six months, you fail to meet your total current child support obligation over any three-month period and have failed to contact the local child support agency with information requiring an adjustment to your current child support order.
- After the first six months, if you do not have a current child support obligation and you have failed to meet your total arrearage repayment obligation over a three-month period, and you have failed to contact the local child support agency with information justifying a reconsideration of your repayment amount or schedule length.
There is also a special compromise opportunity for certain military personnel. Current reservists or National Guard that have been activated to military service and deployed may receive a total compromise of any governmental arrears. This is because their current child support was not changed to reflect that their pay in the military is less than their pay in the civil workforce.
There are several documents that will need to be submitted and having an attorney contact DCSS for updates/status of the application is necessary. If you are interested to know more, email me at carina @ciclawfirm.com or call my office at 310-601-7144.
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