Retroactive Child Support in California

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce mediators; California divorce mediatorsThe child support that has to be paid for the period before the actual order for payment of child support was obtained is called retroactive child support in California. It just means that the child support paying parent will have to make the payments from an earlier date. Retroactive child support is not similar to unpaid or late payments of child support.

An example will make it easier to understand retroactive child support. Suppose you filed a divorce petition on July 1 and requested for a child support order on August 1. The date set for the hearing of your case is September 10. On the day of the hearing, the court decides to make the initial child support order a retroactive one. The court may make the order retroactive from July 1 or August 1. A paternity action or divorce proceeding commonly starts once a petition for temporary child support is filed.

Generally speaking, the California family court makes the temporary child support order a retroactive child support order. But if the initial petition for divorce notice was not served within 90 days of its filing, the court will make the child support retroactive from the day the petition was served. So, if the parent supposed to be paying the support did not avoid doing so intentionally, the payment of child support becomes effective from the date of serving the notice.

Retroactive child support is paid on four grounds –

  • The custodial parent and the child are in need of support and would benefit from payments of retroactive child support.
  • The non-custodial parent intentionally delayed the payment of child support by delaying the hearing of the case.
  • The non-custodial parent had deliberately avoided paying child support by withholding crucial information on assets and finances.
  • The court will also take into account other factors such as income of the parents, among other things, to determine if the support order should indeed be made retroactive.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation