The “Compromise of Arrears” Debt Reduction Program
The “Compromise of Arrears Program” or COAP (pronounced “cope”) is a program for eligible parents with past-due child support payments 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 compromise agreement must take into consideration the needs of the children named in the child support order and the parent’s ability to pay.
What the Debt Reduction Program Won’t Do:
- It will not forgive the entire debt.
- It does not change your monthly child support obligations.
- It will not reduce unpaid child support that is owed directly to the person receiving support – you can only reduce the amount you owe the taxpayers. If your children never received public assistance or were never in foster care, you are not eligible.
- It will not reduce spousal support arrears.
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 expenses 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 three years, 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.
- Don’t stop paying your child support because you are applying for COAP. This is grounds for a denial of your application, and you won’t be able to apply again for one year.
- Provide complete information and documents with your application. Your application cannot be considered until you have done this.
- Be honest. If you do not tell the truth on your application, or if you hide income or assets, your application will be denied.
- Make your payments as agreed. If you do not make the debt reduction payments after an agreement has been reached, your agreement will be canceled and you will owe the unpaid amount to the state again. If your agreement is canceled you won’t be able to apply again for two years.
- Even if you are approved, keep paying your regular child support. If you miss any current child support payments your agreement will be canceled. You will owe the full amount of your pre-agreement arrears and will not receive a refund for any payments made. If your agreement is canceled, you won’t be able to reapply for two years.
How to Apply:
Your local child support agency is there to help with this program, and will guide you throughout the application process. Call or visit your local agency and ask for an application and return by mail or in person.