The laws regarding time limits and child support vary from state to state. Parents are legally responsible for financially supporting their children until they reach the age of majority, usually defined between the ages of 16 to 19, and typically age 18 (depending on the state). It is illegal for a parent to willfully fail to support their child, though states will usually stay removed from taking action until after the divorce or dissolution of the marriage has occurred.

What is the First Step to Get Child Support?

If you are seeking child support, the first step is to locate the non-supporting parent and establish paternity. This usually needs to be established before the child turns 18. If the claim is reasonable and if necessary, the state’s child support enforcement system can step in and force the parent (usually the father since the mother’s maternity is established at birth) to take a paternity test. Fatherhood may also be established when a man acknowledges the child as his own by signing the birth certificate or paternity document.

Many states allow the parent seeking paternity to fill out information about the non-supporting parent. From last known address, alias, height, weight, hair color, and any other identifying markers including scars and/or tattoos. If the non-supporting parent is known to be avoiding paying child support (so paternity is already established) then they can be arrested and jailed for failing/refusing to pay.

In 2017, the Uniform Parentage Act was updated to include same-sex couples rather than one man and one woman. These updates permit and recognize intended parents without regard to sex, sexual orientation, or marriage. Surrogacy and assisted conception are provisions also included in the Uniform Parentage Act. It is best to consult an attorney in these matters since they can be complicated, especially since the laws are frequently changing.

Is there a Time Limit on Establishing Paternity?

In many states, if the paternity of the child has not been established by the time they turn 18, then no child support is due. In other states such as California, there is no statute of limitations on establishing paternity or on bringing a child support action. Additionally, courts may also award back child support for past missed payments. If a parent is unable to make full payments, they may request a modification of child support. Generally, once there is a court order for child support, it is enforceable from 10 years to life, depending on the state.

Do I Need Help from a Lawyer to Seek Child Support?

If you are seeking child support and years have lapsed since your child was born, then it may still be possible to obtain an order for past and future expenses. The first step is establishing a DNA relationship. It is highly advised to speak with a child support attorney, who can advise you of your rights and help you determine your best course of action for moving forward with your case.