Non-custodial parents are still financially responsible for their children’s needs. Sometimes, courts will order retroactive child support. Retroactive child support is different than unpaid child support.

  • Unpaid child support or child support arrearages involve missed payments after a judge issues a support order.
  • Retroactive child support essentially is reimbursement for child-related expenses that were made before there was a child support order or agreement.

When Is Retroactive Child Support Required?

Judges can order retroactive support when it is merited. Typically, retroactive payments is if:

  • The non-custodial parent concealed some of their assets or finances in order to avoid paying support,
  • The non-custodial parent acted in a way to delay a final hearing on child support, or
  • The court concludes that there is a demonstrated need for retroactive support.

Additionally, some states impose time limitations on retroactive child support. For example, in Texas, most retroactive child support awards are limited to four years.

How Is Retroactive Child Support Calculated?

Retroactive child support is calculated in the same way as standard child support payments. Child support calculations vary from state-to-state. Some states have very specific child support guidelines and calculators. Other states award child support on a case-by-case basis, assessing the needs of the child and the parents’ financial resources. However, retroactive child support is typically based on the non-custodial parent’s income during the time period that is being awarded (not the parent’s current income).

Find out more here: How to Calculate Child Support

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

A parent who wishes to obtain retroactive child support must specifically request it from the court. The request can be denied if the judge determines that there is no evidence in support of the claim. Alternatively, you may negotiate retroactive child support as part of a child support agreement.

Find out more here: Collecting Past Due Child Support

What If They Refuse to Follow the Order?

As with all court orders, a retroactive child support order is enforceable by law. Failure to follow the terms of an order can have drastic consequences for a non-paying parent. Penalties for not paying child 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.

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with Retroactive Child Support Payments?

If you have any issues regarding child support, consider hiring a child support lawyer. Child support laws and claims can be complex. An attorney can help you build a strong case for retroactive support and ensure the correct forms and documents are filed with the court.