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In certain child support cases, the law allows the parent to pay less than his or her total child support debt owed to the government because their child received public assistance during a time that the parent did not pay the court ordered child support. This is called a compromise of arrears. If a person owes child support arrears to the state, s/he may qualify for the Compromise of Arrears Program. (COAP).
The following is an example of a State Statute ( California) on COAP:
Cal Fam Code § 17560. Program establishing arrears collection enhancement process; Acceptance of compromise offers; Rescission of offers; Conditions; Finality; Compliance with federal law; Uniform application
(a) The department shall establish and operate a statewide compromise of arrears program pursuant to which the department may accept offers in compromise of child support arrears and interest accrued thereon owed to the state for reimbursement of aid paid pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11200) of Part 3 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The program shall operate uniformly across California and shall take into consideration the needs of the children subject to the child support order and the obligor's ability to pay.
(b) If the obligor owes current child support, the offer in compromise shall require the obligor to be in compliance with the current support order for a set period of time before any arrears and interest accrued thereon may be compromised.
(c) Absent a finding of good cause, or a determination by the director that it is in the best interest of the state to do otherwise, any offer in compromise entered into pursuant to this section shall be rescinded, all compromised liabilities shall be reestablished notwithstanding any statute of limitations that otherwise may be applicable, and no portion of the amount offered in compromise may be refunded, if either of the following occurs:
(1) The department or local child support agency determines that the obligor did any of the following acts regarding the offer in compromise:
(A) Concealed from the department or local child support agency any income, assets, or other property belonging to the obligor or any reasonably anticipated receipt of income, assets, or other property.
(B) Intentionally received, withheld, destroyed, mutilated, or falsified any information, document, or record, or intentionally made any false statement, relating to the financial conditions of the obligor.
(2) The obligor fails to comply with any of the terms and conditions of the offer in compromise.
(d) Pursuant to subdivision (k) of Section 17406, in no event may the administrator, director, or director's designee within the department, accept an offer in compromise of any child support arrears owed directly to the custodial party unless that party consents to the offer in compromise in writing and participates in the agreement. Prior to giving consent, the custodial party shall be provided with a clear written explanation of the rights with respect to child support arrears owed to the custodial party and the compromise thereof.
(e) Subject to the requirements of this section, the director shall delegate to the administrator of a local child support agency the authority to compromise an amount of child support arrears up to five thousand dollars ($5,000), and may delegate additional authority to compromise up to an amount determined by the director to support the effective administration of the offers in compromise program.
(f) For an amount to be compromised under this section, the following conditions shall exist:
(A) The administrator, director or director's designee within the department determines that acceptance of an offer in compromise is in the best interest of the state and that the compromise amount equals or exceeds what the state can expect to collect for reimbursement of aid paid pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11200) of Part 3 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code in the absence of the compromise, based on the obligor's ability to pay.
(B) Acceptance of an offer in compromise shall be deemed to be in the best interest of the state, absent a finding of good cause to the contrary, with regard to arrears that accrued as a result of a decrease in income when an obligor was a reservist or member of the National Guard, was activated to United States military service, and failed to modify the support order to reflect the reduction in income. Good cause to find that the compromise is not in the best interest of the state shall include circumstances in which the service member's failure to seek, or delay in seeking, the modification were not reasonable under the circumstances faced by the service member. The director, no later than 90 days after the effective date of the act adding this subparagraph, shall establish rules that compromise, at a minimum, the amount of support that would not have accrued had the order been modified to reflect the reduced income earned during the period of active military service.
(2) Any other terms and conditions that the director establishes that may include, but may not be limited to, paying current support in a timely manner, making lump-sum payments, and paying arrears in exchange for compromise of interest owed.
(3) The obligor shall provide evidence of income and assets, including, but not limited to, wage stubs, tax returns, and bank statements as necessary to establish all of the following:
(A) That the amount set forth in the offer in compromise of arrears owed is the most that can be expected to be paid or collected from the obligor's present assets or income.
(B) That the obligor does not have reasonable prospects of acquiring increased income or assets that would enable the obligor to satisfy a greater amount of the child support arrears than the amount offered, within a reasonable period of time.
(C) That the obligor has not withheld payment of child support in anticipation of the offers in compromise program.
(g) A determination by the administrator, director or the director's designee within the department that it would not be in the best interest of the state to accept or rescind an offer in compromise in satisfaction of child support arrears shall be final and not subject to the provisions of Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 17800) of Division 17, or subject to judicial review.
(h) Any offer in compromise entered into pursuant to this section shall be filed with the appropriate court. The local child support agency shall notify the court if the compromise is rescinded pursuant to subdivision (c).
(i) Any compromise of child support arrears pursuant to this section shall maximize to the greatest extent possible the state's share of the federal performance incentives paid pursuant to the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1998 and shall comply with federal law.
(j) The department shall ensure uniform application of this section across the state.