Retroactive child support permits a court to order support for an earlier time, back when no order yet existed. These support payments primary purpose is to do one of two things. To either make up unpaid past support or to pay for support needed before the court adjudicated an order.
In general, courts do not order retroactive child support. Since it isn’t granted automatically, a custodial parent must explicitly request it. Courts always have the prerogative when it comes to making child support decisions, so they may choose to accept or deny a request in the matter of retroactive support.
Different reasons warrant retroactive child support. They include:
• A final hearing child support hearing is delayed
• The non-custodial parent deliberately avoided support or hid some of their assets
• The parent seeking support shows a need for it
How does the court decide the amount of retroactive child support owed? Most courts direct the non-custodial parent to pay based on income earned during the period in question. If the custodial parent was working at a low-paying job during the time in contention and is currently earning significantly more, the amount will be predicated on their lower salary and not their current income.
Other factors come into consideration for the court to weigh. These include whether the non-custodial parent knew support was required, whether the mother previously tried to contact the father, or whether any amount had been previously paid to the custodial parent.
Ultimately, the child’s best interests will determine the decision. Retroactive child support is usually ordered back to when the parents separated. If the parents were not married when the child was born, the court may order support back to the date of the child’s birth. The non-custodial parent may be asked, too, to help contribute to the mother’s pre-natal or post-natal expenses not covered by insurance.
As with any other legally enforceable court order, retroactive child support must be paid. Failure to do so may result in hefty penalties and fines, criminal charges, and possible jail time. In some instances, it may also result in loss of visitation rights or custody.