What You Need to Know About Requesting Retroactive Child Support

Any custodial parent has the right to request retroactive child support from the non-custodial parent. Here’s how to request retroactive child support payments in California.

Child support is a monthly payment that a parent is required to pay to financially support their child. The purpose of child support is to financially maintain the safety and wellbeing of the child, as well as fund necessities such as food, housing, healthcare, and education. It is usually paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent (the parent currently holding custody of the child).

What is the Difference Between Arrears and Retroactive Child Support?

There are two different types of child support, arrears and retroactive, and they are distinguished by when the money is accumulated in the case.

If the parent is unable to pay the full amount for a monthly payment and only pays a portion, the missing amount is classified as “arrears”. Arrears can only be accumulated after the court has finalized the monthly child support order. Thus, any regular child support payment made after the finalization of the child support order is finalized is considered arrears.

Related: Child Support Arrears: CA Family Code 17560

Retroactive child support is the child support that accrued before the judge issues a child support order. Retroactive child support accumulates from the time a parent has filed for a child support order until the order is finalized, which can be a significant amount of time. For example, if a parent files for a child support order on January 1st but the court does not finalize the child support order until April 1st, retroactive pay would be the amount owed by the parent between January to April.

How is Retroactive Child Support Determined and Paid?

Each state has a different restriction on just how far back retroactive child support can be claimed. This is to ensure that a parent is not exploiting the payments and abusing this financial power. For example, if there was no limit on retroactive child support payments, a parent could attempt to claim retroactive payments from the time of the child’s birth.

The limit on retroactive child support payments in California is three years. All retroactive child support payments are owed from the time of filing the child support order to the finalization of the order, however, there is also a maximum limit of three years. Any amount that was accrued outside of this three-year limit is not owed to the filing parent as a retroactive child support payment.

Additionally, it is important to note that the court will calculate the amount of retroactive child support owed on several different factors. The basis of the payment will be the amount that was owed before the child support payment order was filed, but here are a few other factors the court will consider when determining the final amount.

  • The anticipated costs to raise the child, based on their specific needs and situation,
  • The income of both parents during the time period that the order is being requested for,
  • Any voluntary payments made by the receiving parent that were made prior to the child support order,
  • If the request for retroactive payments falls within the California limit of three years.

The court will adjust the retroactive payment amount based on these factors. Additionally, California charges a statutory interest rate of 10% per year for any parent ordered to make retroactive child support payments.

How to Request Retroactive Child Support Payments

Any custodial parent can file a retroactive child support order to the court. Here are the steps a parent needs to take to request a retroactive child support payment.

1. File a petition to the court for child support.

A parent will have to fill out a petition for retroactive child support payments. Once submitted, the petition will be filed through the parent’s local court. It is important to note however that a court must be able to locate both parents to progress with the case.

2. Establish a court order.

The filing party must file a court order. Additionally, they must file an Application to Determine Arrearages form, a Declaration of Payment History form, and a Payment History Attachment form.

3. Serve the non-custodial parent with the correct documents.

In order for the service to be legal, the non-custodial parent must complete the service with a court-stamped copy of all the filing documents listed above. Additionally, the custodial parent must file proof of service to the court, to demonstrate they have completed their service of papers.

4. Appear in court.

A judge will conduct the child support payment hearing. The judge will also determine how much in retroactive payments is owed and the amount of monthly support owed from that point on.

Contact Us

If your or a loved one would like to know more about requesting retroactive child support in California, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney for your unique legal matter. Get your free consultation with one of our California Child Support Attorneys today!