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 . . .
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.
You may be able to settle by paying a lower amount. The debt does not expire! California has no statute of limitations on past due child support payments; child support is enforceable until paid in full.
Although the consequences are severe, child support arrears can be forgiven in the State of California. There are multiple ways in which a parent can have their child support arrears waived or forgiven: Parents are allowed to ask the court to recalculate the amount owed to make sure that it is correct.
The amount you owe in child support arrearages may only be modified if you reach a mutual agreement with the other parent involved. The court has no authority to change or reduce the amount you owe in child support arrears.
But the same work of establishing and enforcing child support orders, spousal support (in some instances) and arrears collection will remain.. Notwithstanding the interest rates being at historically low, the legal interest rate accruing on child support arrearages remain at 10% interest per annum on child support arrears.. If you have been ordered to pay child support and have not paid or have only partially fulfilled your payment obligation, you will be deemed to have child support arrears.. Having your wages intercepted by the government to satisfy the support obligation The possibility of a misdemeanor charge if you willfully fail to pay child support Revocation of your driver’s license; AND An increase in payments as a penalty for not paying support in the past. According to California Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010 if you have child support arrears you are required to not only regularly pay the amount of money you owe in support, but you also are required to pay 10% interest per annum on child support arrears.. If you owe money directly to the custodial parent, (i.e. non-welfare monies), the arrears cannot be reduced by the local child support agency unless the custodial parent participates and consents to the settlement.. I worked with all the parties involved: the custodial parent, the child support attorney, and my client to reach a payment agreed to by both the mother and DCSS.. Notwithstanding the court or the child support agency’s broad powers to ensure collection of the arrears, only a custodial parent (non-welfare) has the power to waive arrears.. In certain cases, the Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP), allows a parent to pay less than his or her total child support debt owed to the government.. The primary objective by both parents and the government in the collection of child support is to determine and set forth what is for the best interest of the child.
When a child is in the custody of only one parent — the custodial parent — that parent can request a child support order to require the other — noncustodial or obligated — parent to provide financial child support .. Any obligated parent who has missed any child support payment owes back child support in full.. If the custodial parent receives public assistance under TANF , some states require them to sign over their child support payments to the state.. If you owe $2,500 or more in back child support and the state submits that information to OCSE, the State Department will deny you a passport until the state requests your removal from the Passport Denial Program, you pay off all your back child support, or the state deletes your case.. A back child support case can go to a federal prosecutor if you owe support for a child who lives in a different state, or if the debt is more than a year past due or more than $5,000.. To avoid missing child support payments and owing back child support:. Child support agencies can intercept your state and federal tax refunds to pay back child support, which could reduce or pay off your debt if you’ve missed payments throughout the year.. If you owe back child support and can pay the past-due amount, make that payment through your state agency just as you would any other payment.. To eliminate your back child support obligation, you must make these arrangements through the court.. Loan to Pay Off the Back Child Support Debt.. You might find a few things you can sell online , locally, or through a garage sale to cover your payments.. If the noncustodial parent has missed child support payments, contact your state agency to find out available methods to enforce the child support order.. Some states send you child support payments and pursue back child support from the obligated parent without involving you.. Any time you can’t make child support payments, contact the custodial parent and the state agency right away to make alternative arrangements.
The California child support attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are able to provide you legal assistance related to child support and child support arrears.. Having your wages intercepted by the government to satisfy the support obligation The possibility of a misdemeanor charge if you willfully fail to pay child support Revocation of your driver’s license; AND An increase in payments as a penalty for not paying support in the past. Percentage Increases in Support Payments as a Result of Arrears If you have child support arrears you are required to not only regularly pay the amount of money you owe in support, but also pay 10% interest per year.. The California child support lawyers from Wallin & Klarich can assist you to avoid such percentage increases by working through the child support process with you.. Any property you have an interest in can be used for satisfaction of your child support obligations.
We’ll also highlight the different reasons why parents cannot always pay on time and the penalties stemming from that.. The state also refers to a Schedule of Basic Support Obligations, which accounts for the number of children and the adjusted gross income of both parents.. Child support arrears refer to unpaid child support payments.. I In a case such as that, the non-custodial parent owes money to the state as opposed to the custodial parent since the government is supporting their child.. Unassigned child support arrears refer to the payments a non-custodial parent owes directly to their co-parent.. Unassigned child support arrears don’t necessarily have to be paid by the non-custodial parent provided that the parent with primary custody agrees to waive those debts.. Non-custodial parents may have jobs but cannot meet the terms of the agreement with the custodial parent.. This often happens when the non-custodial parent gets demoted at work or if they’re starting a new job that doesn’t pay as well.. The non-custodial parent’s medical condition could also explain why they can no longer make payments on time.. Get in Touch with Your Co-Parent – Start the process by contacting your co-parent and explain why you no longer can make the payments in your agreement.. Continue negotiating together with your lawyer until you can get the assigned arrears waived or at least reduced.. You’ll have a tough time negotiating agreements regarding child support and child support arrears on your own.
Thus the agreement was not enforceable and the trial court’s order was affirmed.. HELD: The court of appeal denied father’s claims.. In 1994, the court made a ruling on child support arrears owed on a dissolution child support order.. Father argued that the 1994 order had the legal effect of stopping the future accrual of interest on all arrears accrued prior to the 1994 order and that the January 1, 2003 amendment to Family Code Section 155 which stated that the only “installment judgment” in the support context is the initial support order could not be applied retroactively to his case.. HELD: The court of appeal found that the 2003 amendment to Family Code Section 155 was meant to abrogate the Dupont case and clarify existing law as to judgment interest as set forth in Code of Civil Procedure Sections 685.010(a) and 685.020, and Family Code Section 4502.. The trial court found that a 1978 order in a contempt proceeding that set the amount of accrued arrears at $9,000 and a payment of $15 each month on the arrears was an installment judgment under Code of Civil Procedure Section 685.020(b).. HELD: The court of appeal reversed, directing the trial court to issue a new and properly calculated child support order.. CHILD SUPPORT CASE LAW – ENFORCING CHILD SUPPORT AFTER DEATH. HELD: The Third Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s order.. The trial court denied obligor’s motion to quash service of an assignment order for child support.. Obligor appealed.
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Once the child support request for order is filed, it has to be served on the other parent.. If there are issues and disputes regarding parenting time, income, imputation of income or other appropriate disputes regarding child support that are factually or legally supported, the Family Court will hear those and make a ruling.. California child support laws allow such modified orders to go back to the date the modification request for order was filed.. There are situations where the parents can ask or the Court can order to “reserve” retroactivity even after it makes an order.. After a family law judge makes a child support order, one or both parents (or the Department of Child Support Services if they are involved) may want to change the order.. Either parent’s income situation has changed: income has gone up, down or one parent has become unemployed.. What does the Court do?. One appellate case has stated that a parent who does not pay income taxes does not get a deduction.. That means if a spouse has been ordered to pay spousal support and then later ordered to pay child support to the same parent, that paying spouse may be due for a spousal support modification.. Child support or spousal support paid under a Court order to a different spouse or child : Does that mean only Court ordered support payments are deducted?. The Family Court is required to look at the circumstances of each case and whether a Court gives a hardship deduction or not can turn on the facts and the Court’s discretion.
Do I have to pay child support from my accident settlement?. When a parent misses payments and owes debt in the form of child support, the individual is said to be in arrears.. In child support cases, a lien can be set up so that a portion of the income that goes to the noncustodial parent must first be used to pay off child support debts.. With respect to insurance cases, liens are used to guarantee that some of the debt will go towards the arrears of child support.. This income, they say, should not be used to cover the expenses of another party.. Some cases have featured parents who pursue the full amount of the projected settlement to cover any debts the noncustodial parents have not paid up.. In many states, there are opportunities for parents to pursue and acquire full settlement amounts from personal injury lawsuits that the noncustodial parents won.. Parents who are owed child support can only pursue acquisition of the expenses related to lost wages or missed income.. Attorneys representing parents who owe child support debts have a legal and ethical duty to honor any liens or requests made to pay off those debts immediately.. Essentially, no parent should rely on the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit to collect any debts owed to him or her by a parent in arrears.. If you are a parent seeking payment of child support debt and you know that your child’s parent is on the verge of receiving a settlement, we can help ensure that you earn the maximum available compensation from the lien in the form of lost wages.
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California lawmakers have advanced a budget proposal to stop collecting child support debt from some parents who are receiving cash assistance, but the proposed solutions are a far cry from what advocates for those debt-holders sought in January.. The Legislature’s budget proposal would reduce or expunge debt owed to the government – not the debt owed to families – for parents whose only source of income is from Supplemental Security Income or State Supplementary Payment, the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, a combination of SSI/SSP and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, or Veterans Administration disability benefits.. For context, the Senate Appropriations Committee found that removing all people in arrears from child support debt would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and save only $3.7 million in the general fund by letting go of 98 full-time Department of Child Support Services employees who work in child support debt collection.. Sen. Susan Eggman, seen on the Assembly floor in 2019, supports eliminating accrued child support debt owed to the state.. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters“We’re not intending for money owed to families to go away, but just the money owed to the state,” state Sen. Susan Eggman, a Stockton Democrat, said during a Senate budget subcommittee hearing on the proposal last month.. And the current proposal leaves the state’s 10% interest rate on child support debt, one of the highest interest rates of its kind in the country.. The theory behind child support is that a parent who doesn’t have custody of a child supports the child with monthly payments.. As CalMatters and The Salinas Californian reported last month , California takes a piece of the child support payments owed to custodial parents, usually mothers, receiving these cash benefits.. Meanwhile, if the noncustodial parent falls behind on child support payments, that debt piles up through an interest rate of 10%.. The state itself, in a report commissioned by the child support services agency, has had academics saying since at least 2003 that much of that debt is uncollectible.. If states don’t recover the money from parents, the state itself owes the federal government the debt.. Some states have begun to pass through 100% of child support payments to families, and Colorado passed a law dictating that the state repay the federal government.
If you and the other parent can't agree, and you need to have child support established in your case, you will have to file an action for child support in your county superior court.. on your own, using the child support forms found on the California Courts' website hiring a private attorney to file a petition for child support on your behalf, or asking your local child support agency to open a case and file for child support on your behalf.. Once child support has been established, there are several ways a court can enforce the child support order and help a custodial parent collect overdue payments.. California courts can enforce a child support order by holding the delinquent parent in "contempt" of court.. The custodial parent that is supposed to receive child support, the county where the child lives (if the county has paid support for the child), or the local DCSS office can file the motion, unless the custodial parent has died, in which case the child, or someone acting on the child's behalf, may file it.. fine a delinquent parent up to $1,000 and sentence him or her to up to five days in jail, but generally, judges don't fine parents, since that money could go towards past due child support sentence a delinquent parent to community service up to 120 hours for a first or second contempt and up to 240 hours for a third contempt order a delinquent parent to pay the custodial parent's attorney's fees and other costs associated with enforcing the child support order order that a delinquent parent's property be sold to pay child support order that a lien be placed on a delinquent parent's real property, like a house or land order that a delinquent parent's wages be withheld to pay child support order that money for past due child support be garnished from a delinquent parent's bank accounts, or order that past due child support be paid from a delinquent parent's pension plan, veteran's disability benefits, community property owned by a delinquent parent's spouse, Social Security disability benefits, unemployment compensation disability benefits, workers compensation, lottery winnings, and most other sources of income for a delinquent parent.
When you apply for child support, you may also request the other parent share in the. health care insurance and unreimbursed or uncovered health care costs for your child. or children.. Ask for child support order(s) when filing a petition to establish a. parental relationship, or for divorce, legal separation or nullity or after. a case has been opened.. Ask to stop a child support order after the child has emancipated.. If the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is a party on your case, a copy will be collected. by the Court and served on the DCSS.. If you do not owe child support arrears and you have no minor children with the. same parent, you can file an Ex Parte Application for Wage and Earnings Assignment. Order with proof of the child's age and education.. The court can consider other court orders for child support and may give you. credit for children in your home that you are supporting.. If your 18-year-old child is still a full time high school student. residing with a parent, the child support is payable until your child graduates. or reaches 19 years of age, or your child marries, dies, becomes self-supporting. or emancipates.. If this does not leave you with enough money to support yourself. or the children in your care, you can file a Request for Order to ask the Court. to reduce your child support amount and/or the payment on arrears.. You may also contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) - external link ,. located at 3701 Power Inn Road, who will help any parent, regardless of income. and at no cost, to enforce child support orders.