Under California law, the following strategies may be available to address back child support and arrears:
1. Motion to Re-Determine Back Child Support
If the amount of back child support is incorrect, it can be rectified by filing a motion with the court. You will need to provide proof of payment for child support; payments will then be applied to the back child support.
2. Compromise of Arrears Program
California has implemented a temporary program in which debt may be reduced up to 90% in cases where back child support is owed to the county.
Incorrect court orders are a main cause of back child support problems.
3. Suspension of Interest Under Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Back child support cannot, and should not, be reduced under bankruptcy. However, if you have a job and can complete a pay-off within five years, you may be able to get interest waived. All payments will then be applied to the back child support instead of to the interest.
4. Petition for ‘Equitable Forgiveness’
Although you cannot ask the court to modify child support retroactively, the court can excuse back child support in a situation where the child lived with you while it was accumulating.
5. Motion to Set Aside Invalid Court Judgment
It is possible that your back child support is based on an invalid court judgment, which including not being properly served court papers and/or the judgment was entered without you present in court. If the judgment is set aside, all or a portion of the debt can be wiped out.
6. Petition to Set Reasonable Payment Schedule
Even if there is no basis for modifying back child support, you may go to court to set up a reasonable payment schedule. Under this ruling, you’ll have reasonable funds to support your current household and to avoid further enforcement action, such as suspension of your driver’s license.
7. Negotiating a Settlement with the Other Parent
Even though back child support can’t be retroactively modified, the other parent may be open to waiving back support in exchange for a smaller lump sum payment. He or she may voluntarily reduce portion of the back child support that were unfairly accrued. Any waiver or reduction requires a valid court order and court approval.
Do not try to negotiate such an agreement on your own, or out of court, as it likely won’t be enforceable.
8. Modify Child Support/Stop the Accumulation of Additional Back Child Support
One of the most important things you can do is check whether you are currently paying too much in back child support. Although this may seem obvious, incorrect court orders are a main cause of back child support problems.
9. Alternative Loan Arrangement
Under California law, interest is added onto back child support at the rate of 10% per year. At this very high rate, it can become difficult and even impossible to reduce back child support. The parent who owes back child support should try to obtain a lower interest loan and repay the replacement loan at a lower rate. In some situations, a low interest credit card can be used. If you are experiencing financial problems due to back child support, you should take action immediately, before your problems worsen or your rights expire.