A child support order is a document that is signed by a judge after a child support hearing. This document requires one parent to reimburse the other for expenses associated with childcare, which are more commonly known as child support payments.

Child support payments are paid by the non-custodial parent, which is the parent who no longer has custody, to the custodial parent. Each state has its own laws and formula for determining the amount of child support payments to be paid. In general, the non-custodial parent’s income determines the amount to be paid, among other factors. In a common child support order, the judge orders the payments to be made on a prospective basis. What this means is that the obligation to pay is only activated after the child support order is signed.

Under specific circumstances, a court may order the payment of retroactive child support. Retroactive child support payments are payments for childcare-related expenses that were incurred before the child support payment order took effect.

A family court judge determines whether and when retroactive support payments must be made. There are many different circumstances in which judges may order retroactive child support payments. An example of this would be how if the custodial parent can document a financial need for those payments, the judge may order the non-custodial parent to make the retroactive payments.

Other circumstances in which a judge may authorize retroactive child support payments involve the non-custodial parent’s attempting to evade child support payments altogether. An example of this would be if a non-custodial parent, without good reason, intentionally delays the child support hearing. A judge may then order retroactive payments in order to cover the period of evasion. Similarly, if a custodial parent presents evidence to the court that the non-custodial parent hid assets or cash in order to avoid paying their fair share of child support, the court may order retroactive support to be paid.

There are some states that have no limit on the period of time in which retroactive child payments may be pursued, while other states simply limit that time period. An example of this would be how in California, the retroactive child support period limit is three years. What this means is that a custodial parent can seek retroactive support for the three-year period immediately preceding the filing of a request for support.

Can I Collect Retroactive Child Support in Texas? How Far Back Does Child Support Go in Texas?

Back child support in Texas is generally limited to a maximum of four years. What this means is if a non-custodial parent did not pay for five years, the custodial parent could only petition for four years of retroactive or back child support. However, the state’s laws also allow for some flexibility in deciding how far back Texas retroactive child support payments can go.

An example of this would be how if the custodial parent can prove that the non-custodial parent intentionally avoided supporting the child, they may be able to pursue additional years of retroactive child support. Another example of this would be if there are other special needs, such as a disabled child. No matter the circumstances, Texas child support laws have determined that child support payments cannot be awarded for the time in which both parents were living together.

What Are the Restrictions on Collecting Retroactive Child Support in Texas?

When determining the amount of retroactive child support that is owed, a judge generally considers the income that the non-custodial parent earned during the period for which retroactive payments are sought. This includes any income made from investments and the like. If during that period the non-custodial spouse earned significantly less, or significantly more, than the custodial spouse, the judge may consider this when determining whether to lower or raise the amount owed.

Family courts will also consider any “unofficial” child support payments that the non-custodial parent might have paid during the period for which retroactive payments are sought. Unofficial payments are those that were not made under an order of a court. An example of this would be the parents may have reached a voluntary agreement between themselves in terms of what the non-custodial parent was to pay during the period of retroactivity. Payments that were made during that period may be considered by a judge in order to “offset” the amount of retroactive child support that will be ordered.

When determining the amount of a retroactive child support award, a Texas court will generally consider the following factors:

  • How much money the non-custodial parent had then, and has now;
  • Whether the non-custodial parent knew that financial support was required; and/or
  • How much money the non-custodial parent has already paid, as previously mentioned.

Texas child support laws have set guidelines for courts to follow when calculating the amount of child support that will be owed, whether retroactive or current. When calculating child support, the court will apply guidelines which are based on the Child’s Best Interests Standard.

After determining net monthly income, the family court will then apply one of the following two standards. The first standard applies if the non-custodial parent’s net monthly income is less than $9,200, and the second standard applies if it is greater than $9,200.

When less than $9,200, the court will consider the number of children in a household, which are the subject of the suit. Texas child support laws have determined that:

  • One child= 20% of net monthly income;
  • Two children = 25% of net monthly income;
  • Three children = 30% of net monthly income;
  • Four children = 35% of net monthly income;
  • Five children = 40% of net monthly income; and
  • Six children = no less than 40% of net monthly income.

When more than $9,200, the court will apply these calculations to the first $7,500 of net monthly income. If the custodial parent can prove that the child has needs which warrant that more child support is needed, the court can order more child support. Examples of such needs include, but may not be limited to:

  • Tuition, such as for private school;
  • Additional medical costs;
  • Costs associated with tutoring; and
  • Extracurricular activities.

However, as previously mentioned, there is a limit placed on the amount of child support that can be awarded. An example of this would be how if it can only be proven that the children’s additional needs are $500 more than what is minimum, the court can only order that the non-custodial parent pay $500 more than the minimum established by Texas child support laws.

Will an Award of Retroactive Child Support Reduce Future Child Support?

Because retroactive child support is granted in addition to regular child support, it does not reduce future child support payments.

Failure to pay retroactive child support can result in being held in contempt of court. Contempt of court can result in penalties of potential jail time, as well as monetary fines. A non-paying parent may also face loss of professional licensure.

Some states refuse to issue or renew a driver’s license to non-paying parents. Additionally, employers can withhold a portion of the parent’s wages in order to be used toward retroactive payments.

Child support debts, including those that are retroactive, cannot be discharged or erased during bankruptcy. Generally speaking, these debts do not expire, and attempts to collect retroactive child support are not generally subject to a statute of limitations.

Do I Need a Texas Family Lawyer for Retroactive Child Support Issues?

If you are in Texas and believe you are owed retroactive child support, or are being asked to pay retroactive child support, you will need to consult with an experienced Texas child support lawyer. Your attorney will be aware of Texas child support laws and what your rights and legal options are under those laws. Additionally, they will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.