Statutes of Limitation on Back Child Support

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State laws determine how and when a person can be ordered to pay child support. Additionally, these laws dictate the window in which a person can collect arrearages.

Legal Duties

Every state denotes that both parents are responsible for supporting their children until the child reaches the age of majority. This often means that child support remains due until the child turns 18. However, many states permit child support orders to last longer than the child’s 18th birthday.

The most common extension of this rule is to require the parent to pay child support until the child celebrates his or her 19th birthday or when he or she finishes high school, whichever occurs first. Another common extension beyond the 18th birthday is if the child is disabled and not able to be self-sufficient. Parents may also agree or have a court order in place that requires child support to last longer.

However, there are also instances when the default age of majority does not determine how long the child support obligation lasts. For example, if the child marries, enrolls in the armed forces or becomes legally emancipated, child support is usually stopped.

The legal duty to pay child support is usually created when paternity is established. Paternity may be established by a separate cause of action, as part of a divorce decree, by signing a state-issued acknowledgment form or by operation of law. Some states prohibit the establishment of child support if paternity is not established before the child turns 18.

Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

This Act was established in 1996 and has been amended several times since. Some version of it has been adopted by every state. If a child support case involves two or more states, the original version of the Act stated that the statute of limitations that applies is the longer of the two states involved in the case.

State Statutes

The laws regarding the statute of limitations vary greatly from one state to the next. For example, some states provide a specific set of requirements regarding the collection of arrearages in child support while others treat this debt in the same way as any other debt. Some states determine how long the statute applies by looking at when each child support payment was due, while others look at when the last payment was due. For example, if the back child support payment was due for when a child was 10 years old and the statute holds that the statute is for ten years past the date of the last child support obligation, the parent is responsible for the 10-year-old’s payment until the child is 28. This is the law in Michigan and several other states.

Some states require the custodial parent to get a judgment that is in addition to the original child support order. This judgment can last for ten years in many states. This is the rule in Arkansas. State law only permits Arkansas custodial parents to collect on child support arrears for five years after the child reaches age 18 if there is not a separate order. However, if a judgment is made, the order is good for ten years and can be revived after that.

Other states may not have a statute of limitation at all, such as California. Child support remains payable until all of the back payments have been collected. Some states allow parents to get a judgment on child support and then renew the judgment after ten years, further extending the debt obligation for the amount in arrears.

Payment of Arrearages

Some states impose fees and interest of more than ten percent on amounts of child support arrearages. Payment for arrearages are still required even if the custody situation changes or the child lives with the paying parent because this is a debt obligation for the time when the child lived with the custodial parent.

Because child support laws are state-specific and can vary widely by jurisdiction, it is important for individuals who are involved in this issue to consult with a lawyer who is licensed in the state that has jurisdiction of the child support case. A lawyer may be able to help file the necessary legal documents and take the necessary steps to obtain past due support.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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