If you and your ex-spouse have children together but the courts have yet to order a child support agreement, you may be eligible for retroactive child support, which is different from unpaid support. Retroactive support makes up the cost of support a spouse had not been paying while no agreement was yet in place. Unpaid support, on the other hand, refers to a spouse failing to fulfill the terms of a court-ordered agreement. Here’s what you should know about retroactive child support, from Fort Collins child support attorney Stephen Vertucci.
Who Might Be Eligible to Receive Retroactive Child Support?
Retroactive child support does not necessarily require a divorce. For example, the Colorado courts may order an unmarried person to pay retroactive child support for a custodial parent’s prenatal, OBGYN, and labor expenses. Unmarried parents may also have to pay retroactive child support to pay for other childcare expenses dating back to the child’s birth. The courts may grant this type of retroactive child support order if it is in the child’s best interests (e.g., the child has unmet financial needs).
To be eligible for retroactive child support, the custodial parent will need to prove either the support is necessary for the children’s well-being or that the noncustodial parent intentionally withheld finances to avoid paying support in the past. Support might be necessary if the custodial parent does not have the means to meet a child’s financial needs for a period of time in which the noncustodial parent should have been paying support. Financial needs can refer to the costs of food, clothing, health care, and education.
A parent might also qualify for retroactive child support if the noncustodial parent purposefully avoided support through actions such as leaving the state, breaking off contact with the other parent, hiding contact information, or concealing finances during a child support court session. If you can prove the other parent of your child(ren) intentionally avoided paying child support for a time, you might have the right to receive retroactive support for the missed payments.
How to Petition for Retroactive Child Support
If you believe your child deserves retroactive support from a noncustodial parent, you will have to petition the Colorado courts for this type of financial agreement. The courts do not automatically do this during a divorce or custody hearing. List the specific payment amounts and dates of the desired support, as well as your reason behind the request. File your petition as soon as you can to avoid missing an important deadline. Not all states impose deadlines for retroactive support. Contact a local lawyer to find out the laws in your area.
A judge will calculate retroactive child support based on both parents’ incomes at the period of time in question, as well as the monetary contributions the noncustodial parent made to child care in the past (whether or not payments stemmed from a court order). Retroactive child support should not be a burden on the noncustodial parent. Instead, it should be an amount that the parent can reasonably afford, based on his/her income at the time of the “missed” payments. If you have questions about the amount your retroactive child support payment might be as a custodial or noncustodial parent, discuss your case with an attorney.
Retroactive child support can give a custodial parent the financial means to take better care of children and to accommodate their financial needs. You may receive payments for months or years of retroactive childcare. Failing to make retroactive child support payments can mean severe penalties such as fines and jail time. If you have reason to believe your ex-spouse should be providing financial support for your child, contact an attorney to discuss the possibility of petitioning for retroactive support.