Back Child Support (Arrears)
Robert Ackermann is a Los Angeles based Fathers Rights attorney experienced in dealing with countless DCSS arrears matters. Mr. Ackermann has handled DCSS back child support matters in more than 20 Counties throughout the State of California. Here are strategies used in resolving back support cases.
Back Child Support Problems (“Arrears”)
Under California law, the following Strategies may be available for dealing with Back Child Support/Arrears problems:
Compromise of Arrears for Amounts owed to the County.
If the arrears are owed to the County, we can apply to have the debt reduced up to 90%. Recently, we resolved a case where $22,431 was owed to LA County; the case was settled for $1685.31 (and which was actually more than 90%).
Negotiating a Settlement with the other Parent.
If arrears are owed to the other parent, the other parent may be open to settling with you for a smaller lump sum. Any waiver will require a formal signed agreement with the other parent and will also require Court approval; therefore you should not try to do this out-of-court as it will not be enforceable.
Motion to Re-Determine Back Child Support.
If the amount of back child support is incorrect (e.g., you have not been credited for payments you made), then it can be corrected by filing a Motion with the Court.
Motion to Apply Social Security Benefits against Arrears.
If you’ve been receiving Social Security benefits while your children have been minors, we can file a Motion to set-off what are known as “derivative benefits” against arrears. In one recent Los Angeles case where the Client owed $40,000, we were able to file a Motion to obtain a $31,000 credit against the arrears.
Petition to Set Reasonable Payment Schedule.
Even if there is no basis for reducing back child support, we can petition the Court to set-up a payment plan, so that you will have sufficient funds to support your current household. This can also help you avoid further enforcement action against you, such as license suspensions or bank levies.
Petition for “Equitable Forgiveness.”
Although back support cannot be reduced retroactively, the Court can excuse back support where the child was actually living with you during the time that it was accumulating. In one case, we were able to excuse 3 years of back support because we showed that the child was actually living with Dad during that time. This resulted in a $21,000 credit to Dad.
Motion to Dismiss Invalid Court Judgment.
If your back support is based on an Invalid Judgment (e.g., you were never properly served with Court papers) your back child support can be wiped-out if the Judgment is “set-aside.” In one of our LA cases, where the parent was “served” at the wrong address, we were able to wipe-out more than $27,000 of arrears.
Stop the Accumulation of Additional Back Child Support
One important thing you can do is check to see whether you are paying too much in current child support. Although this may seem obvious, the biggest reason behind many arrears problems is that the current Court Order is incorrect.
Request for File Closure.
Under certain narrow circumstances, a parent can request that the County close their case file. Again, these circumstances are very limited for example, where the parent is on SSI, and has no earnings or assets that can be attached.
Parents Re-Taking Custody from Foster Parents.
The Family Reunification Program is for parents who owe arrears because aid was paid while the child was in foster care or living with a guardian. The parent can apply for this program if the child is still a minor and is now living with the parent. The parent’s net income must be less than 250% of the federal poverty level.
Alternative Lower-Interest Loan Arrangement.
Under California law, interest is added onto child support arrears at the rate of 10% per year. At this rate, it can become impossible for some parents to ever reduce back support. For this reason, if you owe back child support, you should consider paying-off your arrears by using a lower interest loan and then repaying the loan at the lower monthly rate. The other major benefit is also that you will finally have the State of California off your back – and will no longer have to worry about being harassed by constant governmental enforcement.
Paying-Off Arrears by using your Credit Card.
In some situations, it might make sense to finally get rid of your arrears by putting your balance onto a Credit Card. Remember — the State of California accepts MasterCard and Visa. Even besides the issue of interest, it’s far better to owe Visa or MasterCard than it is to owe the State of California. Just for starters, the credit card company does not have the power to either — suspend your driver’s license, revoke your passport, intercept your tax refund or even threaten you with jail for contempt if are suddenly unable to make payments.
And also, if you eventually run into problems with your credit card, your credit card debt may be dischargeable through bankruptcy; whereas child support debt owed to the State is never dischargeable.
Protect your Right to Social Security.
If you are unable to resolve your arrears, you will one day find yourself subject to having Social Security garnish up to 60% of your monthly benefits. What you’ll need to do to try to avoid this is to get a Court Order for a fixed amount well ahead of time in order to minimize your risk.
The Final Word on Dealing with Arrears – Don’t Delay and get the Assistance of Experienced Counsel
It can’t be overstated that you need to take immediate action to handle your back child support problems. If you’re not taking action to make things get better, they will inevitably get worse. Just like the high interest rate being charged by the State of California, the longer you wait the more your problems will become compounded.
These cases can turn into lifetime problems. You should use experienced counsel to handle your case, as you may only have a single shot at resolving it.
More Information about Back Child Support (aka Arrears).
Dealing with Back Child Support is the most common problem that comes up in California DCSS Child Support Cases, and so here is some more information about the laws in California on the subject of arrears.
Definition of Child Support Arrears in California?
There are a lot of different ways that people refer to back child support in California, such as — arrears, back support, back pay, etc. These are all off-hand references that everyone understands, but what is the legal definition?
The official term used by the State of California DCSS is — “Arrearages” and which is defined as — “The unpaid child support payments for past periods owed by a parent who is obligated to pay by court order. The arrears or arrearage or arrearages include interest and are adjusted for the amount of any partial satisfactions of the judgment.”
If you pay off the Arrears, do you still owe the Interest.
Many parents who owe back support talk about interest (on arrears) as if the interest is not really part of the arrears; and also as if it is not something that they are really expected to pay. This is unfortunately not correct. Under California law, interest on back child support is considered to be part of the arrears.
Think about it this way – if you put money into the bank and several years later wanted to take it out, wouldn’t you consider the interest to be part of what you are owed? The bank, of course, could not tell you that they would only give you back your original deposit, but not the interest.
The only way interest is treated differently is that “new interest” on child support arrears is only charged against existing principal and not against “existing interest.” This is actually a very significant advantage because over the long-haul, this represents a very large savings on what your arrears obligation would otherwise be.
More to be added . . .