Some non-custodial parents are in arrears regarding their child support obligations and are looking for a fresh start, and have the arrears reduced or totally wiped off. If your child received government benefits (welfare) or was in foster care while you were not providing court-ordered child support, such debt is not payable to the custodial parent nor the child, but to the government.
Federal and state laws mandate you to pay back the state for assisting your children throughout that time since those programs are funded by the state using taxpayer money.
However, many states and Federal laws have programs that can lower or totally forgive such debts if you qualify for them. This article explains everything you need to know about such programs, known as Child Support Arrears Forgiveness Program.
What is Child Support Arrears Forgiveness Program?
The Child Support Arrears Forgiveness Program program (fresh start program) offers qualified non-custodial parents who have past-due child support obligations (arrears) the chance to have the outstanding debts they owe the government lowered in exchange for prompt payment on their current support obligation or for making a lump sum payment toward the arrears.
There are debt reduction options available to indebted noncustodial parents in at least 36 states, including the District of Columbia. Despite the fact that each state takes a different approach, they all want to encourage regular child support payments and improve family bonds using the child support arrears forgiveness program.
You will be able to submit a compromise repayment to the state if you are eligible. In other words, you could propose to pay a smaller amount than what you owe in order to lower the debt. Your income and assets will be taken into account when any concession in your arrears and interest is made.
How to Qualify for Child Support Debt Reduction Program
Child support cases, if any, vary from person to person and from state to state. So there are no set universal rules to qualify for the debt reduction program. However, depending on the specifics of your case, child support arrears may be resolved in a flat sum or over time via a payment plan.
Any debt reduction arrangement must take into account both the parent’s financial situation and the needs of the children as listed in the original child support order. However, there are some basics that are common in all situations, like:
- You should be able to service both recurring debt payments AND your present child support obligation. If you don’t owe current support, simply your capacity to pay off the debt will be taken into account.
- Your family’s overall size and composition, as well as your present income, assets, and cost of living, are all taken into consideration.
You may be eligible for the debt reduction program if it is assessed that your circumstances make it improbable that you could pay off the complete debt within a year.
These are pretty general things to review, yet EVERY case is unique. Your eligibility for the fresh start program may also depend on other case specifics.
What is NOT included in Debt Reduction Programs
- It won’t wipe out the entire debt.
- Your ongoing monthly child support responsibilities are unaffected.
- You can only lessen the amount you owe the taxpayers; it won’t affect any outstanding child support that is payable directly to the person getting support.
- You are ineligible if your kids have never been in foster care or received government aid.
- Arrears of spousal support won’t be lessened.
Some Rules of Fresh Start Program
1. Continue making current payment
If you are applying for the Debt Reduction Program, do not cease paying the ongoing child support. Your application will be denied for this reason.
2. Have Complete documents and information
All through the process of your application, include accurate information and supporting documentation. You must do this action before your application may be evaluated.
3. Honesty is key
Your request will be rejected if you are dishonest on it or if you conceal assets or income.
4. When approved, abide by the payment schedule
If after reaching an understanding, you fail to make the debt reduction payments, your deal will be invalidated, and you will once more be responsible for paying the unpaid sum to the state.
5. Even when approved, Keep paying ongoing support
Your agreement will be revoked if you fail to make any recent child support payments. You won’t get a refund for any payments you made, and you’ll still be responsible for paying off your entire pre-agreement debt.
6. Pay debts to the custodial party
Pay all child support obligation arrears owed to the custodial party, or obtain their waiver.
How to Apply for Child Support Arrears Forgiveness Program
Though the process may vary a little from state to state, here are the basic principles for applying for the debt reduction program for child support
- Contact or go to your neighborhood child support office and
- Request a debt reduction application, which may include the Income and Expense Declaration.
- Fill out the forms, then send them to your neighborhood support organization.
- Await their response.
Get a Child Support Attorney to assist
You can also get a child support attorney to assist you to go through the process more seamlessly, by tapping their experience.,
States with Child Support Debt Forgiveness Programs
Here are brief details of child support debt forgiveness statutes in various states that run the program
In circumstances where existing support is paid continuously for at least 12 months, an interest rebate provision permits the forgiveness of interest owed to the state and custodial parent (if the custodial parent agrees), Code of Alabama §30-3-6.1
Noncustodial parents are eligible for debt forgiveness if they meet certain requirements and have accumulated arrears of child support totaling at least $1,500. State-owed indebtedness will be gradually forgiven over a six-year period if the parent abides by the arrears forgiveness agreement. 15 AAC 125.650
The DCSS Settlement Program helps non-custodial parents who may have a sizable arrears amount on their child support case. It offers a chance to settle past-due accounts.
If your financial resources are restricted, you might propose to pay off your arrears by making a single payment or monthly installments that can be acceptable for up to three months.
In order to take part in the program:
- Consider the amount you would like to offer as payment for the past-due sum.
- To present your settlement offer, visit a nearby DCSS office, call the DCSS Customer Service Center at 602-252-4045 or 1-800-882-4151, or send an email to the DCSS Settlement Team at email@example.com.
Note that the state’s job is to facilitate the best offer for the state and the parties engaged in the case, not to lobby for a specific settlement sum. A custodial parent cannot be forced by the DCSS to accept a settlement offer. Source
The state of Arkansas does not have such a program.
The Debt Reduction Program run by the California Department of Child Support Services attempts to reduce uncollectible debt owing to the state of California and enhance support payments made to families. In exchange for compromising the remaining permanently assigned arrears owing by a participant, the Debt Reduction Program enables acceptance of a partial-pay offer.
The child support offices in Colorado County are able to provide arrears compromise for allocated child support arrears. The counties are responsible for deciding whether to implement an arrears compromise program and, if so, what standards they want to utilize. Source
For assigned child support arrears, county child support offices are able to establish a compromise payment plan. The counties are responsible for deciding whether to implement an arrears concession program and, if so, what standards they want to utilize.
Connecticut has put two arrears schemes into place. The first one, the Arrears Adjustment Program, aims to lessen state debt while also promoting NCPs’ positive involvement in their children’s lives and covering current support obligations. The second program, the Arrears Liquidation Program, enables debtors to pay off arrears in full at a discounted rate in order to extinguish the state-owned debt. §17b-179b-1 to §17b-179b-4
The state of Delaware does not have such a program.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Fresh Start program enables a part of TANF arrears to be forgiven in exchange for consistently timely payments on the current support obligation or a lump sum payment towards arrears. The program requires noncustodial parents to be invited to participate by the Child Support Services Division.
- TANF’s debt of at least $1,000 is outstanding.
- Not received a voluntary payment in at least a year.
- Previous enforcement attempts were unsuccessful
- Addresses that are both valid
- Failure to pay support cannot be for malicious reasons.
- Interstate cases that respond are not eligible for the program.
Has no such program.
According to a state’s law, the child support service has the authority to dismiss, reduce, or reach a deal for the payment of state-owed outstanding debts for administrative child support orders when it is ascertained that there is a valid reason for failing to pay or that enforcement would put the parent or parents who are responsible for the support through significant and unreasonable hardship. The application or exclusion of late interest on an overdue debt is at the discretion of the courts.
Hawaii doesn’t have such a program.
No program in Idaho
Low-income noncustodial parents can request forgiveness of allocated arrears through Project Clean Slate in return for making regular, mandated payments of current support to the custodial parent for a period of six months. Due to job, incarceration, or a significant illness, the noncustodial parent must have shown that they were unable to pay the designated support at the moment it was due. Low-wage criteria must also be met by the noncustodial parent. Source
Indiana has no forgivness arrangement
The Promoting Opportunities for Parents Program helps parents get over obstacles that prevent them from carrying out their parental responsibilities. The Child Support Recovery Unit in Iowa may collaborate with local service providers and resources and give incentives to encourage parental engagement. Among the incentives are satisfactions of arrears owed to the state for the payment of child support as per a court judgment. Source
The revised reward scheme was reinstated on January 1, 2021, with effect from September 1, 2020. The new incentive program is designed to help payors find stable employment. With a lifetime limit of $2500 and an extra incentive of $1000 for those payors who finish their GED or high school education, the main incentive is still a reduction of state-owed arrears only. Therefore, the lifetime cap for GED holders is $3500.
The incentives are divided into three groups:
1) Advancement of career: $2000 maximum; allows the payor to advance in their profession (HVAC certificate, barbershop or cosmetology license, forklift driver certificate, etc.)
2) Education: maximum $1000 (GED or high school equivalent)
3) $500 maximum for personal enhancement (fatherhood or parenting class, finance class, addiction class, etc.)
The rewards are capped according to their category. For instance, there will only be one $500 reward awarded for finishing both a financial program and an addiction class. Only one $2000 incentive will be given upon successful completion of the HVAC and welding certificate programs. Additionally, a payor will not be eligible for additional incentives if they have previously received the maximum amount allowed under earlier iterations of the incentive scheme. However, a payor might be qualified for extra incentives under this scheme if their prior payment totaled no more than $500.
All proposals for the incentives program must be submitted by January 1, 2021, together with the necessary supporting documentation (such as completion certificates and attendance figures) to DCF.CSSIncentives@ks.gov
The fresh start program is not available in Kentucky.
No child support arrears forgiveness program
possesses no official program. Only for assigned arrears does the state take debt forgiveness into consideration on a case-by-case basis. Considered factors include:
- Paying capacity (present and future)
- partial or ongoing repayments of outstanding debt
- reduction of state debts owed
- possible case resolution
With the help of the Payment Incentive Program, the noncustodial parent is motivated to make regular child support payments by:
- If the noncustodial parent pays full child support for a year, the state will reduce any outstanding arrears by half.
- If the noncustodial parent pays the full amount of child support for a period of two years, the remaining balance is eliminated.
Credit for unbroken court-ordered payments made just before enrolling in the program will go to the noncustodial parent. Seasonal unemployment and no-fault termination will both be taken into consideration.
The payment of interest, fines, and arrears is permitted by Massachusetts child support laws, as is the equitable adjustment of arrears. If the Child Support Commissioner decides such a concession is in the best interest of the Commonwealth and therefore will maximize the collection of present and past-due child support, she or he may waive all or part of the interest and penalties payable to the Commonwealth.
In situations where there is grave uncertainty regarding the culpability or collectability of such arrearages, the Commissioner may also approve a settlement offer that is less than the whole amount of state-owed arrears. When the payer has no current or foreseeable ability to pay the full amount of child support arrearages owed to the Commonwealth, the commissioner may also fairly adjust that amount. Source: 830 CMR 119.A.6.2
Arrears and interests may be adjusted in accordance with various legislation.
- The Department of Human Services or its designee may occasionally exercise discretion to resolve and reconcile unpaid state obligations (MCL 205.13).
- Other laws enable non-custodial parents to submit a payment plan if they are unable to pay the arrearage in full, now or in the near future (for a minimum of 24 months). Any outstanding arrears owed to the state may be waived by the court at the conclusion of the payment plan (MCL 552.605e).
- Additionally, if regular payments are made, noncustodial parents may request a payment plan in order to have the surcharge (interest) waived or lowered (MCL 552.603d).
According to state law, whether or not a judgment has been docketed, the parties (including the public authority with assigned arrears) have the right to reconcile unpaid support payments or arrearages owed by one party to another. Source
No child support arrears forgiveness program
No fresh start program
Nevada can only take into account arrears-only cases in which the custodian is not due any money. The noncustodial parent must submit an application and supporting paperwork. Each application is examined, and the Division of Welfare and Support Services Administrator—who has the power to discharge state debt—is informed of the results and given a recommendation.
There is no official debt compromise policy in place at the Division of Child Support Services in New Hampshire. Child support workers do have some latitude to negotiate deals to obtain current support, including the cancellation of debts owed to the state for aid that had accrued previous to the creation of a child support judgment and was based on imputed income. The supervisor of the child support worker must authorize any such agreement.
On rare occasions, the New Jersey Child Support Program will match payments received in connection with a child support case for a limited period of time and apply the same sum as credit for the state’s arrears total. The program focuses on funding availability and is announced annually. Source
By examining cases to concentrate on just-sized court orders, New Mexico’s Child Support Arrears Management Program, Fresh Start, serves the demands of today’s modern families, resulting in greater payments and less debt. Through this method, the noncustodial parent may have the choice to give the custodial spouse a lump sum payment or regular monthly payments in order to lower the imposed arrears. The noncustodial parent must owe the state over $1,000 in back taxes.
Noncustodial parents that owe the state money can take advantage of a number of debt compromise programs offered by New York State. Depending on the neighborhood district, the program changes. Interested parties must verify whether the service is offered with the local district wherein their order was issued.
- Arrears Cap: A ceiling on the total sum of unpaid child support to the government.
- Non-custodial parents who owe the Department of Social Services child support debts and who do not have upwards of $3,000 in the bank or more than $5,000 in assets are eligible for the Arrears Credit Program.
- Parent Success Program: Designed to assist non-custodial parents by enhancing their abilities to care for their children by completing a substance-use treatment program.
- Pay It Off is a time-limited initiative that allows noncustodial parents to pay off their child support obligations to the NYC DSS twice as quickly. For further details on each program, see the website.
The New York Debt Reduction Project Go to the disclaimer page
In order to qualify, the Obligor must:
- owing at least $15,000 in unpaid state taxes.
- Accept to pay existing support for 24 consecutive months as well as a sum for back payments.
- Abide by the agreement
For its debt compromise program, North Dakota has three objectives:
Encourage debtors to follow the long-term payment schedule
Get rid of unpayable debt
encourage case completion where necessary
If an offer is made for at least 95% of the outstanding arrears sum (after deducting any negotiable interest), or 90% with the IV-D Director’s permission, the assigned arrears may be compromised.
When an obligor engages in a payment strategy to stop license suspension or even other enforcement measures, as well as when they have been paying on time, interest may be jeopardized.
In all situations, interest is not assessed while regular payments are being made, and any unpaid interest accruing prior to the completion of one year of installments may be subject to compromise.
Under some conditions, interest may also be deemed uncollectible. Certain circumstances, such as an obligation holder getting Supplemental Security Income, are pre-approved. In certain circumstances, a worker may stop interest from building up on the case and may ask for an adjustment to the payment record for any accumulated unpaid interest.
Without the IV-D Director’s consent, the worker cannot suspend interests or have it waived in circumstances that have not been pre-approved.
If/when the debtor complies with all the requirements of a waiver, installment plan agreement, lump-sum compromise, or family assistance program, permanently assigned arrears may be lowered.
The state allows forgiveness of part or all unpaid child support arrears with the consent of the parents and judicial approval (or the state accepts when the debt is owed to the state).
Lump-sum part payment or a series of payments from the noncustodial parent who for the total amount of previous support may be included in settlements for past support.
Settlements may also provide that the noncustodial parent will make a certain number of additional in-kind payments or present child support payments.
A program for accumulated interest that is owing to the state has also been developed by the state. All settlements of interest due to the state are subject to approval by the district’s state attorney. Source
Although there is no official program for the Oregon Child Support Program/Division of Child Support, forgiveness is employed as necessary. When determining whether to satisfy child support arrears assigned to the State of Oregon or to any other jurisdiction, the program takes into account the family’s best interests. If:
- The paying parent has severe difficulty as a result of the arrears.
- A settlement will increase the case’s collections; or
- In order to improve their capacity to pay or their bond with the children for whom they owe arrears, the paying parent made an arrangement with the program. Source
Any reduction in the amount of state-owed debt must receive judicial approval, according to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rule.
State-owed arrears may be negotiated at the discretion of the Office of Child Support Services.
South Carolina Child Support Arrears Forgiveness Program
No program available
The spouses have the option to agree to a solution and pay off back child support directly to the person who is owed support, with the court’s permission (family-owned arrears). Debt due to the state is not forgivable. Source
To encourage payment by non-custodial parents who are behind in paying child support arrearages allocated to the child support office under Section 231.104, the child support agency may create and manage a payment incentive scheme (a).
Every dollar paid on penalty and arrearage amounts throughout each month of the NCP’s voluntary participation in the program must be credited to the participating NCP’s account. Texas Family Code 231.124
The Prisoner Forgiveness Program forgives state-owed arrears for newly released inmates who are accepted into the program and pay 12 months of continuous ongoing support plus a small amount toward arrears.
For individuals who are accepted into the program and pay 12 months’ worth of back support or arrears in a row, Utah also targets debtors in treatment programs and forgives state-owed debts. Code Rule R527‐258
The requirements of 15 V.S.A. 659 may be taken into account by the court while limiting the child support obligation. 33 VSA §3903
Parents who incur TANF debt as a result of a Virginia court or administrative order may apply for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Debt Compromise Program through the Division of Child Support Enforcement.
By granting qualifying parents a TANF debt reduction, the program aims to promote regular child support payments. Based on your financial capacity, there are three levels of engagement. Call 800-468-8894 or go to your neighborhood district office to learn more about how much you might be able to save. State Child Support TANF Debt
The Child Support Department may approve partial or full charge-offs of support arrears owing to the state as well as accept the offer of settlement for disputed claims.
Through its Child Support Conference Boards, the state set up an administrative dispute resolution mechanism to hear parents’ requests to decrease the amount of arrears and make decisions based on the specific facts of each case. Rev. Code of Washington 74.20A.220
For those participants in this program who clear all outstanding debt within 5 years/60 months, interest is waived. All participants in this voluntary program must voluntarily agree to waive the interest. §48‐1‐302 (c)
In a number of situations, such as when the obligee is unable to pay the arrearage due to income, earning capacity, and assets or the obligee has a long-term incapacity, local child support agencies may waive all or portion of the state-owed arrears. Child Support Bulletin # CSB 20-06
No child support arrears forgiveness program
Virgin Islands Fresh Start Program
Don’t have fresh start program
Not available in Guam
Conclusion on Fresh Start Program
The child support arrears forgiveness program is very helpful for non-custodial parents that need their child support debt reduced for various reasons. Follow the statute of your state to access the program, where available, and benefit from it.