Retroactive Child Support

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What Is "Retroactive Child Support"?

Retroactive child support refers to child support payments that were missed or weren't paid in the past. Non-custodial parents often have a duty to pay child support. If a parent has failed to pay child support, the judge may order them to make up for the missed payments. 

Retroactive child support is similar to what is known as “child support arrearages.” With arrearages, the parent also must make up for payments they missed in the past. However, retroactive child support refers to the time period before a permanent child support order was issued. Child support arrearages cover the time period after a permanent support order was issued.

When Is Retroactive Child Support Required?

First, the judge must determine whether the parent and child are eligible for retroactive child support. Retroactive payments may be awarded if:

How Is Retroactive Child Support Calculated?

Next, the court will make calculations to determine the amount of retroactive child support that must be paid. As in all child support and custody hearings, all determinations are made with the child’s best interest in mind, and not those of the parents. 

When calculating retroactive child support amounts, these factors will usually be considered:

Finally, one of the main issues that needs to be resolved is the period of time when payments were missed. As mentioned, retroactive support usually only covers the time before a child support order was finalized. However, the time period can often go back as far as the date of the parent’s separation. 

How Can I Get My Child’s Parent to Pay Retroactive Child Support?

A parent who wishes to obtain retroactive child support would have to request for this specifically in court. Retroactive child support is not mandatory or required, and a discussion of retroactive child support is usually not a part of most hearings. A request can be denied if the judge determines that there is no evidence in support of the claim.

What If They Refuse to Follow the Retroactive Child Support Order?

As with all court orders, a retroactive child support order is enforceable by law. Failure to follow the terms of retroactive child support order can have drastic consequences for a non-paying parent. 

Penalties for not paying retroactive support can include possible criminal charges (such as contempt of court). This can result in a fine and/or a possible jail sentence. Failing to make the payments can also result in a loss of privileges, such as visitation and custody rights. 

Finally, it is possible for the non-paying parent to be sued in a civil court, especially if it can be proven that the failure to pay had caused the child serious harm or loss.

Do I Need to Speak with a Lawyer for Issues With Retroactive Child Support Payments?

If you have any issues regarding retroactive child support, or child support in general, a family lawyer can be of much assistance to you. Child support laws can be complex, and they may be very different from state to state. An experienced attorney can help you file the necessary forms and documents in court to support your claim. 

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Last Modified: 11-12-2013 02:08 PM PST

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