What Is Retroactive Child Support?

There is a difference between a parent who doesn't pay their child support obligations and a parent who has yet to be ordered to pay for child support. In cases where a paying parent is issued a retroactive child support order, they are required to pay support for a specific period of time before child support is officially granted.

An example of retroactive child support would be if an unmarried, non-custodial parent had to pay for the other parent's expenses and child support dating back to the birth of the child. Parents going through a divorce might also be ordered to pay retroactive child support for the months between the start of the divorce and when the child support order is issued by the court.

"Back" child support is past due support, and happens when one parent fails to pay their court-ordered child support obligations on time. Courts can enforce sanctions or penalties on parents who don't make their child support payments. These sanctions include fines, paying for attorney fees, and the possibility of time in jail.

How Do I Get Retroactive Child Support?

The parent who wishes to seek retroactive child support will need to file a petition with the court. The petition should specifically ask for retroactive payments for certain dates. The parent will also need to provide reasons that justify the retroactive support award, such as:

  • Unmet financial needs for the child during the relevant period of time
  • Concealment of finances by the non-custodial parent
  • The non-custodial parent intentionally missed payments

Judges have significant leeway when it comes to retroactive child support orders. The longer a parent waits to file their retroactive child support claim, the less likely a court will be to award support for the entire period. If you wish to obtain retroactive child support, you need to act quickly.

How Does a Judge Determine Retroactive Child Support?

Judges usually use the income of both parents for the period of time in question to calculate the amount of retroactive child support. Child support is based in the lower wage.

Courts also consider any previous payments made by a noncustodial parent, even if they were not ordered to make payments by the court. Retroactive child support is not intended to place an unfair financial burden on a non-custodial parent. In fact, the payments can be reduced to allow a non-custodial parent to catch up on both retroactive and current child support obligations.

It should be noted that some states have no limits on the time period for which a parent can seek retroactive child support. However, other states, like California, have a 3-year time limit for retroactive child support. You should consult with an attorney to discuss the retroactive child support laws in your state.

Do you need help obtaining retroactive child support payments? Contact our Glen Allen team of family law attorneys to schedule your consultation today.

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