In California, both parents are financially responsible for the care of their children. When the parents do not financially provide for their children, the state government will step in providing aid to families with dependent children (welfare) or even foster care.
The state charges non-custodial parents for these programs. The amount charged is considered child support, but owed to the state not the custodial parent. The amount owed is known as an arrears.
There is a program to help non-custodial parents reduce the amount of arrears they owe to the state. The program is called the Compromise of Arrears Program or COAP.
To qualify for COAP, the person owing support (the debtor) can make an offer to compromise repayment to the state - in other words, pay less than the full amount he or she owes. Any reduction in the arrears and interest owed will be based on the debtor’s income and assets.
COAP will not completely eliminate a debtor’s arrears, but it can lessen it by as much as $5,000.00
There is a computer program used to determine the amount of repayment required and how much of the arrears will be reduced. Every debtor’s child support case (or cases) is different and must be determined individually. The arrears may be paid off all at once in a lump sum, or over time in a payment plan, depending upon the details of the individual case.
California’s child support website includes the following:
Any compromise agreement must take into consideration the needs of the children named in the child support order and the parent's ability to pay. It must also be in the best interest of the state.
COAP is not a “cure-all.” It will not:
- Entirely eliminate the amount the debtor owes.
- Change any amount the debtor owes in child support to the custodial parent.
- Change a debtor’s current child support obligations.
- Compromise any spousal support arrears.
According to the state’s website to be eligible for the program:
- Don’t stop paying on current child support because you are applying for COAP. This is grounds for a denial of your application, and disqualifies you to reapply for COAP for one year.
- You must provide complete information and documents with your application. Your application cannot be finalized for an agreement until you have done this.
- Be honest on your application. If you do not tell the truth on your application, or if you hide income or assets, your application will be denied and you will be ineligible to reapply for COAP for one year.
- Make your COAP payments as agreed. If you do not make the payments after an agreement has been reached, your agreement will be canceled and you will owe the balance (unpaid amount) of what was compromised to the state again. This is called a rescission. If your agreement is rescinded you will be unable to reapply for COAP for two years.
- Pay your current child support orders. If you miss any current child support payments your agreement will be rescinded. You will owe the full amount of your pre-agreement arrears and will not receive a refund for any payments made. If your agreement is rescinded you will be unable to reapply for COAP for two years.
For further information, contact your local child support agency (LCSA).