In 2018, more than 2,000 noncustodial parents took advantage of an Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) program to lower their child support arrears owed to the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) by an average of $7,300.
Noncustodial parents who owe DSS child support arrears can improve their future, and their children's, by taking the necessary steps to lower their debt or to bring their child support order into line with their income. Many more parents qualify for these programs than take advantage of them. Debt is associated with lower child support payments, greater parental depression and poor health, worsened family relationships, less effective parenting, and deteriorating child behavior.
OCSS offers Arrears Cap with an income limit and debt reduction to as low as $500. The Arrears Credit Program awards a debt reduction of $5,000 for full child support payments made for one year. Parent Success lowers debt up to $10,000 for completing a qualifying program. And the time-limited Pay It Off program matches payments of $500 or more for double the DSS child support debt reduction. OCSS also works with noncustodial parents to lower their child support order when they do not present their income and expense information in court or when their financial situation changes. For noncustodial parents with family-owed debt, free or low-cost mediation services can help both parents work out an agreement on whether they want to reduce the arrears and under what conditions.
In addition, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps low- to moderate-income parents get a tax break on their federal tax return. The City offers free financial counseling through the Department of Consumer Affairs. One-on-one professional counselors can help with managing money and minimizing debt.
Arrears Cap can put a limit on the amount of child support debt that a noncustodial parent owes to the government. The amount of arrears can be reduced to as low as $500. To qualify, noncustodial parents must owe child support debt to the NYC Department of Social Services (DSS). The parent's income must have been below the federal poverty level when their DSS arrears accumulated. Noncustodial parents can apply by mail.
The Arrears Credit Program is open to noncustodial parents who owe DSS child support arrears and do not have more than $3,000 in the bank or more than $5,000 in property. Parents can qualify for a yearly credit of up to $5,000 on their DSS debt. They can also take advantage of this program up to three years – for a credit of up to $15,000 on DSS debt for each eligible case. There are two ways to participate: 1) by paying the full amount of child support owed each month for one year, or 2) for those without a current order, by paying the full amount of the last child support order each month for one year toward the debt owed on the account. Noncustodial parents can apply by mail.
The new Parent Success Program is designed to help noncustodial parents by supporting their well-being and strengthening their ability to provide for their children. In the first phase of the program, parents can eliminate up to $10,000 in DSS child support debt by completing a qualifying substance use treatment program. The treatment program must be certified by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). Once parents have completed the course, they must submit a completion certificate or letter from their service provider to OCSS to qualify for the Parent Success Program's DSS debt reduction.
Pay It Off is a time-limited program that enables noncustodial parents to pay off New York City DSS child support debt twice as fast – by matching their lump sum payments of $500 or more dollar for dollar up to the amount of DSS arrears they owe. This program was last offered March 2 to 16, 2020.
Modify DSS Order (MDO) can help low-income noncustodial parents lower child support orders that are not consistent with their current income. To qualify, parents must have a current child support order and a child on Cash Assistance. Their annual income must be below the New York State Self-Support Reserve, and they must be receiving Cash Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, or Medicaid. OCSS can assist parents get these court-ordered child support obligations lowered to make them consistent with New York State child support standards.