Back child support in Florida

Why can I only recover two years of retroactive child support?

There are circumstances when parents live apart, with one of them caring completely or primarily for the child or children, such as before seeking a determination of paternity or after separating during a marriage. In this situation, the parent providing the complete or majority of care for the child may ask the Florida court to order child support in a divorce or paternity action or in a petition for child support during the marriage.

Under these circumstances, Florida statute provides that the court can as part of the initial award of child support award it retroactively back to the date the parents stopped living together with the child, but “not to exceed a period of 24 months” before the filing date of the petition for child support.  

In deciding whether to order retroactive child support, the court should consider the state child support guidelines in effect during the retroactive period (based on the obligor’s income) and any payments the payor parent already made for the child’s benefit during the retroactive period (not to exceed two years).

Past-due child support

Florida courts consider child support that was not paid pursuant to a valid court order to be a “vested property right for the benefit of the child,” according to Moody v. Moody, a 2018 District Court of Appeal, First District, case. The parent who should have received the payments can request that the court enforce the obligation. While there are a few valid defenses for not paying child support, the parent who missed the payments must show “extraordinary or compelling circumstances.”

There is no two-year limit on liability for child support arrears from an existing child support order, as opposed to the two-year limit a court can reach back when establishing an initial child support order.

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