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Does New Jersey Allow Retroactive Child Support?

mother and child

Retroactive child support is a complex subject about which our Freehold child support attorneys occasionally receive inquiries. It often comes up when a parent fails to ask New Jersey Courts for a formal order of support at the time they become the child’s primary provider. We also field inquiries about whether the Courts allow retroactive adjustments when there are substantial changes in circumstances.

New Jersey does not allow retroactive child support. In fact, NJSA 2A:17-56.23a expressly bars orders of retroactive child support. However, it’s very important to make the distinction that retroactive is not the same as unpaid child support. What’s more, a Judge can allow adjustments or modifications to be retroactive to the time they were filed.

What Exactly is Retroactive Child Support?

Retroactive support would cover the time period before a child support order or modification goes into effect. Some states allow this. In Florida, for example, one can receive up to 24 months of retroactive child support. In Ohio, you can be awarded retroactive child support, but only if paternity is at issue. New Jersey, however, is not among those states that allow retroactive child support.

For example, if you and your spouse separated before filing divorce, your ex moved out and you supported the kids financially until you divorced, you might presume your ex should retroactively cover those expenses for the time you were separated. That is not the case. Child support payments will only go back to the point when you first officially filed for them.

Another scenario that might raise the issue of retroactive child support would be if one parent abandoned the family for a period of time. If the parent seeking support doesn’t file for it right away, they aren’t entitled to collect child support for the timespan before filing.

The child support law in New Jersey stipulates that its effects are strictly prospective. In other words, when you are awarded child support, it’s only future payments that are allowable. The one exception is when actions are pending.

In other words, the Court can rule that child support payments can be repaid back to the date you first filed for support. If the other parent wasn’t making payments after you filed and while the child support request was pending before the Court, the Judge can decide to require payments retroactive to the filing date. Your Freehold child support lawyer can help you make a case for this.

For instance, if you file for divorce in June 2021 and request child support in that filing but the Judge doesn’t issue the final divorce decree until June 2022, you may be entitled to a year of “retroactive” payments going back to the date you first filed for divorce and requested child support. But if you split with your spouse in June 2021 and don’t file for child support until June 2022, you can’t collect retroactive payments for the year prior.

What If My Ex Owes Back Child Support?

Back child support is a different story. If you have an order of child support and the other parent fails to pay it and the Court takes enforcement action, that is not retroactive child support. It is back child support, and you can request the Court’s help in collecting what is past due.

For instance, if you have an order of child support from the Court and the other parent skips out on 8 months of it, you can collect the full amount of that back support. In fact, you may even be entitled to collect reimbursement of whatever attorney’s fees and other costs you had to pay in pursuing those payments.

Can Child Support Adjustments Be Retroactive?

Child support payments, once established, can be revisited. They are typically only altered when there is a material change in circumstances. Some clients wonder if those adjustments can be retroactive. The answer is that the adjustment cannot go further back than the date your lawyer filed the motion for it with a New Jersey Family Court.

If you have questions about filing for New Jersey child support, pursuing back child support, or modifying existing child support orders, our Freehold family law attorneys can help. If you are separated and anticipating a divorce, consider seeking a child support order while the matter is pending.

Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.