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Can Child Support Arrears Be Reduced?

The California Department of Child Support Services’ Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP) aims to increase support collected for families and the state general fund, and to reduce arrears owed to the state. COAP allows the acceptance of an offer to compromise a portion of a noncustodial parent’s permanently assigned arrears in exchange for partial payment of a delinquent child support debt. Source: California Family Code Section 17560.

How is Child Support Calculated?

California uses an income shares model in which the court bases the child support payment amount on the number of children and the income of both parents.  For example, if a non-custodial parent has a net income of $3,000 and the custodial parent has a net income of $2,000, the total income is $5,000.  Using an economic table that shows the cost of raising children, the court will use the expected cost for one child.  Suppose the table states that the monthly cost of one child is $1,500 (just as example).  The non-custodial parent’s income is 60% of the total parents’ income, so the non-custodial parent would pay 60% of $1,500 or $900.  In addition to income considerations, California also uses times share model which takes into account how much time each parent spends with the child.  For example, if the non-custodial parent spends only 20% of the time with the child, they may be required to pay more child support.

What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support is supposed to include housing, clothing, and food, but the costs of raising a child always involves more.  There may be costs for school events, toys, activities, healthcare/medical insurance, etc.  The non-custodial parent contributes to these expenses by making a cash payment to the other parent.  Custodial parents aren’t required to account for how support payments are used although some non-custodial parents may want assurance that their payments are going towards their child’s needs.  Unless a child’s needs are actually being ignored or neglected, there is little that can be done if a non-custodial parent suspects that the other parent is spending child support on their personal needs.

Can You Go To Jail For Not Paying Child Support?

Yes, if you do not pay child support, you may be placed in jail for up to six months.  “Contempt of Court” is the legal basis for placing you in jail.  If you do not pay your child support, you are in violation of a court order.  If you are placed in jail, it is important to request the court for a reduction in the amount of child support due to the reduction in your income while you are in jail. 



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