If you owe child support arrears to the government because your child received public assistance (“welfare” or foster care), you may qualify for one of California’s arrears reduction programs. As of May 2021 debt reduction program requirements have changed. If you applied in the past you should apply again as you may qualify under the new program.
Debt Reduction Program (DRP)
The Child Support Debt Reduction Program
The Debt Reduction Program provides eligible parents with past-due child support payments the opportunity to reduce the amount they owe to the government. This debt, called "arrears," is owed to the government if your dependent children received public assistance (welfare) or were in foster care while you were not paying court-ordered child support. Those programs are paid for by the state using taxpayer dollars, and federal and state law require that you reimburse the state for supporting your children during that time. If you qualify, you will be able to offer a compromise repayment to the state. In other words, you may offer to reduce the debt by paying an amount that is less than the full amount you owe. Any reduction in your arrears and interest owed will be based on your income and assets. Each person's child support case, or cases, is different. Arrears may be paid off all at once in a lump sum, or over time in a payment plan, depending upon the details of your case.
Any debt reduction agreement must take into consideration the needs of the children named in the child support order and the parent's ability to pay.
Any reduction in your arrears will be based on your income, assets and expenses. If you hide or lie about information, or you do not make the payments after an agreement has been reached, the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) will cancel the agreement and remove you from the Debt Reduction Program (DRP).
Qualifying for the Debt Reduction Program:
- To qualify, you must be able to pay both your current child support obligation AND an ongoing debt payment. If you don't owe current support, only the ability to make the debt payment is considered.
- Your current income, assets, and cost of living are all taken into account, as is the total size and makeup of your family.
- As a general rule, if it is determined that your situation makes it unlikely that you could pay off the total debt within twelve months, you may qualify for the debt reduction program.
- EVERY case is different, and these are very general items for review. Other details of your case may also affect your eligibility.
In addition, you may qualify for increased debt reduction of child support arrears if:
- You are or have been a Reservist or member of the National Guard
- You were activated to military service
- Your income was reduced due to the activation
- Your delay or failure to modify your support order was reasonable under the circumstances
- Your support order would have been reduced had you requested a modification timely
For more information, visit the state's Debt Reduction Program page.
You can view our latest DRP Virtual Workshop Below
Compromise of Assigned Arrearages-Family Reunification (COAA-FR)
California has adopted the COAA-FR program to help bring parents and children placed in out-of-home care back together. This program allows the compromise of child support arrears owed to the government when a child who was placed in foster care, or with a relative caretaker or guardian, later returns to the home of a parent who was ordered to pay support.
You may qualify for this program if:
You are the parent of a child and you owe support debt to the government because your child received aid from one of the following while your child was not living with either parent:
- Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care (AFDC-FC)
- California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
- Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment (KinGAP)
- ONE of the following situations applies: Your child was made a dependent of the court, placed in foster care, and the court later gave custody to you – OR – Your child was voluntarily placed with a relative or guardian (not the other parent); and the child lived with you at some point in the past.
- Your child is living with you now at least 50% of the time
- Your child has not reached the age of majority (AOM) or emancipated
- Your net disposable income (after taxes) is less than 250% of the federal poverty level and a compromise is necessary to help you support the child
- You are following any reunification plan required by the county welfare department or the court
For more information, visit the Family Law website.