Retroactive Child Support in Florida

Retroactive child support is a way for custodial parents to recover compensation from noncustodial parents when they take on the financial responsibility of supporting their child before a child support order is ordered by a court. However, the process of securing retroactive child support can be complicated.

The family law attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group have extensive experience helping families navigate Florida’s child support system. We can help you determine the retroactive support you are owed, file petitions and other documentation, and represent you in court if necessary. Call (407) 634-6604 or reach out online to schedule your free, confidential consultation.

What Is Retroactive Child Support?

Florida’s guidelines allow retroactive child support covering the period between parental separation and the date a judge issues a formal child support order. Retroactive support is meant to help parents with primary custody recoup a fair share of the money they spent supporting their children while the other parent was not contributing. It applies to both married and unmarried parents.

Importantly, retroactive child support is not the same as “back” child support. Retroactive payments make up for unpaid amounts prior to a child support order being issued by a court. By contrast, back child support arises when a parent fails to comply with an existing child support order.

Does Retroactive Child Support Affect Future Child Support Payments?

Retroactive child support typically does not impact future child support payments or support modifications. Judges may even order parents to make retroactive payments while keeping up with current payments. That said, judges can also order retroactive support to be paid in installments rather than force noncustodial parents to come up with a large lump sum all at once.

Time Limitations for Retroactive Child Support in Florida

Florida allows for retroactive child support for a period “not to exceed a period of 24 months preceding the filing of the petition.” If you are unmarried and the other parent is not providing support or stops doing so, you can file a child support petition once you establish paternity. If child support is granted, you can also ask for retroactive support.

How to File for Retroactive Child Support

To get retroactive child support in Florida, you must submit a petition to the presiding court. In the petition, you should identify the retroactive period and the reasons justifying the support. For example, it may simply be that the other parent left your home and stopped contributing financially to your child’s upbringing.

The timing of your filing depends on the circumstances. If you have a pending divorce or paternity action, you can request retroactive payments during the associated proceedings. If you are unmarried, you can request retroactive payments in an initial request for child support. 

In all cases, you should be ready to present relevant evidence, including the expenses related to raising your child and proof of your income. The judge will use the evidence submitted by you and your child’s other parent to determine how much child support payments should have been during the retroactive period.

Calculating Retroactive Child Support

Judges calculate retroactive child support based on the date one parent stopped supporting their child. They multiply the appropriate monthly child support amount by the number of months of missing contributions (subject to the two-year limit). 

In divorce cases, judges may order temporary child support. In these instances, retroactive support would apply from the date support ceased to the date of the temporary support order.

Retroactive support orders for unmarried couples depend on the specific circumstances of the parents’ situation. If an unmarried couple lives together and supports their child, their separation date is treated similarly to that of a divorce. If they live apart, the date one stops supporting their child financially normally marks the start date of the retroactive payment period. 

To illustrate, suppose a married parent moved out and stopped supporting their child in January 2020, but their spouse’s divorce petition was not submitted until January 2023. Assuming the petition for retroactive support accompanied the petition for divorce, a judge could only order retroactive child support back to January 2021 in order to comply with the two-year retroactive maximum. 

Factors in Retroactive Child Support Calculations

Judges consider numerous factors when making retroactive child support decisions. These considerations are based on Florida’s child support guidelines schedule and should take into account all relevant factors, “including the needs of the child or children, age, station in life, standard of living, and the financial status and ability of each parent.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Our Florida retroactive child support attorneys have an in-depth knowledge of the state’s complex family law system. We can help you calculate the applicable retroactive period, determine the amount you are owed, gather substantiating evidence, file your petition, and represent you in court. 

Though you are not required to hire an attorney, navigating the legal intricacies of your case alone can lead to unsatisfactory results. You can count on us to protect your legal interests and work hard to secure the best result for you and your children. Learn more about our services in your free, no-obligation consultation.

Reach out to O’Mara Law Group With Your Child Support Questions

If you have child support questions or are ready to file for retroactive child support, partner with our experienced family law firm. Our award-winning family lawyers have decades of experience helping our clients protect their rights and the best interests of their children. Call (407) 634-6604 or reach out online to schedule your free, confidential consultation.


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