Child support arrears or back child support in Florida refers to the payments that must be made by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent for providing for and taking care of their child while a decision on a child support petition was pending. A court will typically backdate such child support payments to cover the expenses paid by the custodial parent in this period and add it to the total amount of child support that the noncustodial parent owes.

In some situations, a Florida court may even backdate child support payments to a period of time before the initial petition for child support was filed or pending. This will happen if the custodial parent can provide proof that they were solely responsible for raising and paying for any of their child’s needs.

To learn more about the requirements of retroactive child support payments in your Florida county, it may be in your best interest to speak to a local child support lawyer as soon as possible.

Can I Collect Retroactive Child Support in Florida?

As previously mentioned, Florida courts allow custodial parents to petition for and collect child support prior to when an initial petition for child support was even filed. Accordingly, a court may order a noncustodial parent to pay child support for the time between when the child support order officially went into effect and the date of when the child’s parents formally separated or divorced.

A Florida court can order a noncustodial parent to pay child support as far back as up to twenty-four months from when the initial petition was filed. However, a custodial parent must first file a petition seeking retroactive child support before a court can award such payments.

The petition must include the date of when a custodial parent is requesting the retroactive payments from as well as the grounds for why they should be entitled to collecting retroactive child support.

What Are the Restrictions on Collecting Retroactive Child Support In Florida?

There are some restrictions that may affect the amount of retroactive child support that a noncustodial parent can request and collect. For instance, if the custodial parent was financially well off and did not require child support during the time frame in question, then the court may not include the amount that would normally be owed when calculating the total award of child support.

As discussed above, the custodial parent will also be barred from collecting payments that extend two years or twenty-four months past the original date of when the initial petition for child support was filed. This is due to a law known as the Florida back child support statute of limitations. Briefly, a statute of limitations is a law that prescribes how long a person has to file some type of legal claim before they are barred from taking legal action.

Finally, one other important restriction on collecting retroactive child support in Florida is if the noncustodial parent was unable to make payments due to their financial circumstances or if they were not working because they were recovering or suffering from a medical condition.

Accordingly, the custodial parent will not be able to collect retroactive child support payments from either of these two periods if the noncustodial parent can submit proof of their medical or financial complications.

How Is the Amount of Retroactive Child Support Calculated and Paid?

In general, the amount of retroactive child support is typically calculated and paid in accordance with the noncustodial parent’s current income. A custodial parent may also be able to prove the amount of retroactive child support payment that is owed by submitting the proper evidence.

In cases where a large amount of retroactive child support is owed, a Florida court may allow the noncustodial parent to use an installment plan, as opposed to ordering them to make a one-time, lump sum payment.

A Florida court may also backdate and extend the initial order for child support payments up to two years or twenty-four months before the initial child support petition was filed. For instance, if a custodial parent filed a petition for child support in April of 2018, then a Florida court may extend retroactive child support payments as far back as April of 2016. Thus, this can increase the amount of child support that a noncustodial parent owes.

How Far Back Can I Collect Retroactive Child Support?

A custodial parent may request to receive retroactive child support payments, starting from either the time of when the noncustodial parent moved out of the home that they shared or after two years have passed since child support payments were required. The option that is the shortest of the two will normally be the time frame that is used by a family law court in Florida.

In most cases, a custodial parent who is seeking to claim retroactive child support payments will typically not be permitted to request installments that extend beyond the two-year period from the date of when the petition for child support was initially filed.

Will Retroactive Child Support Reduce Future Child Support Payments?

In addition to having to make standard child support payments, a noncustodial parent may also be required to make retroactive child support payments as well. Generally speaking, retroactive child support payments will not serve to reduce the total amount of future child support payments that a noncustodial parent must pay. Instead, both will need to be paid until the noncustodial parent is up to date in payments or the child becomes an adult.

There is one exception, however, and this is if the noncustodial parent encounters a financial circumstance or difficulty that makes them unable to make child support payments. In such a case, the noncustodial parent must file a petition to modify their obligations concerning child support payments in court. The noncustodial parent may use this petition to either request that the amount of child support be reduced or temporarily put on hold until their situation changes.

Will Prior Support Paid Reduce the Retroactive Child Support Payments?

Once the court has determined the amount of retroactive child support payments that must be accounted for (e.g., how far back the retroactive payments extend), any money that a noncustodial parent has already paid during this period of time towards child support payments can then be subtracted from the final child support award.

Family law courts in Florida generally try to ensure that the amount of a child support award is fair for both parents and often do not want to force a party involved in this process to pay a higher amount of child support than is required by law. Thus, the overall effect of prior child support that was paid on retroactive child support payments will typically reduce the amount that a noncustodial parent still owes on a child support back pay award.

Do I Need a Child Support Lawyer?

In general, calculating and obtaining child support back pay can be very complicated. This is especially true in cases in which a noncustodial parent owes several years worth of child support back pay. Thus, you may want to consider hiring a Florida child support lawyer for further legal guidance on how child support back pay is calculated and acquired in the state of Florida.

There are many benefits to working with Florida child support lawyers, such as:

    • Having someone who is knowledgeable about child support laws in Florida to explain the requirements as well as to help you to understand your legal rights under such laws;
    • Using a legal expert to provide representation in court, which can aid in ensuring that both you and your child’s best interests are protected; and
    • Having someone whom you can direct questions to about the law, your case, and/or the legal procedures that must be complied with to file a claim for child support back pay.

Alternatively, if you need someone to defend you against a claim for child support back pay, then you should also consider hiring a Florida family attorney or child support lawyer in your area. They can help make sure that your legal rights and interests receive adequate protection under the law and in court.