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Program aimed at helping parents behind on child support payments

The role that parents play in the development of their children's lives is extremely important. Research undertaken on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services indicates that the absence of a father in a child's life can actually have negative consequences for the child's cognitive ability and educational achievements.

California has recognized the social benefits of placing the need of children to have both parents actively involved in their lives above the need to penalize parents that are behind on their child support payments.

Currently, California has a program known as Compromise of Arrears Program, which is intended to reduce back child support payments owed to the government in some circumstances. COAP enables some noncustodial parents to reduce their child support debts in situations in which the dependent children were being supported with help from public assistance or were in the foster care system. Here are some of the more important aspects of the COAP program:

-- COAP is not intended to forgive all past child support arrearages.

-- The amount by which a noncustodial parent's arrearages will be reduced is dependent on his or her current income and assets.

-- Any compromise of arrearages offered by COAP must also balance the parent's ability to pay with the child's interests and the state's interests simultaneously.

-- A COAP settlement will not alter your monthly child support obligations.

-- Noncustodial parents who are attempting to file a COAP application should continue paying their child support because any failure to pay could potentially disqualify you from applying for COAP benefits for a period of one year.

-- COAP applicants should be truthful and completely thorough in their disclosure of their income and assets. Any attempt to conceal or misrepresent your ability to pay could delay your ability to reapply for the program for a period of one year.

-- If you are approved for the COAP program and then fail to pay the reduced amount, you could be kicked out of the program and required to pay the difference of your COAP compromise. You may also be unable to reapply for a period of two years.

California parents who do not qualify for COAP should know that they may still be able to seek a modification of their child support obligation. Your California family law attorney can assist you with that.

Source: California Department of Child Support Services, "Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP)" Dec. 11, 2014

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