Retroactive child support is when the court orders you to pay child support back to the date of birth, date of separation, or another relevant date and prior to the court issued child support order.

Tennessee family law aims to ensure that every child receives financial support from both of their legal parents and that all parents can exercise their right to spend time with their children and make decisions about their children’s upbringing. Therefore, when the parents of a minor child get divorced, or when an unmarried couple brings their dispute about their child before the court, the court issues an order known as a parenting plan, which indicates which parent is with the children on which days of the year.  Based on the parenting plan and on each parent’s income and expenses, the court also issues a child support order to ensure that each parent pays their fair share toward the child’s expenses. This usually results in the wealthier parent paying child support to the less wealthy parent. If the parents do not have much of a disparity in income, the parent with less parenting time usually pays child support to the parent with more parenting time.  If you have been paying your child’s expenses all by yourself, with your ex contributing almost nothing, you can ask the court to order your ex to pay you retroactive child support. A Murfreesborofamily law attorney can help you do this.

When Does the Court Order Parents to Pay Retroactive Child Support?

Unless otherwise specified, you must begin paying child support on the day that the court issues the child support order.  (Considering that most child support orders are issued when a couple gets divorced or ends their relationship, this is because, before the child support order, both parents were contributing to the child’s financial support.)  If months or years went by between when you and your ex broke up and when you went to court to get a child support order, the court can order your ex to pay retroactive child support, meaning that he must pay you the amount of child support he would have owed during that time under the guidelines. The courts usually order retroactive child support to cover a period that began when the couple separated. If your ex has never contributed financially to your child’s upbringing (for example, if you and your ex never lived together, and the child has always lived with you), the court can orderretroactive child support dating back to the child’s birth, or two years before the child support order was issued, whichever is less. This means that you can start owing overdue child support from the day the court order was issued.

What Happens if You Owe Past Due Child Support?

If you are not up to date on child support payments, whether it is due to retroactive child support or simply falling behind on payments, the court can intercept your tax refund, suspend your driver’s license, or prevent you from getting a passport; in some cases, the Tennessee courts will do this automatically, without your ex-spouse requesting it. The court can also garnish your paychecks to send the garnished amount to your ex and children. In Tennessee, the courts can charge interest on overdue child support; they decide the interest rate on a case-by-case basis. When your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever last occurs, you stop incurring new child support obligations for the child, but you are still responsible for paying your ex-spouse all past due amounts.

Contact David L. Scott About Retroactive Child Support

Contact David L. Scott in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, or call (615)896-7656 to set up a consultation.