How Far Back Can You Enforce Back Child Support?

Sometimes child support isn't paid for years and years. How far back can you go to collect it?
One question I often see in my law practice is how far back in time a person can go in attempting to collect past-due child support. Suppose, for example, that the obligor (the one who is supposed to pay) hasn't paid for eight years. If you request the court for a judgment for child support arrearages, can the judge give you eight years of child support?

As with so many issues in family law, the answer will depend on your state's law. Here in Texas, where I practice, there are two situations to consider. First is the situation where there is a child support order. The Texas Family Code says that If there is an existing child support order, you can obtain a judgment for the entire arrearage so long as you file your action within ten years of the date the child becomes an adult, or child support ceases, either according to the child support order or by operation of law.

The second situation occurs when the parents are not married and the mother sues the father to establish paternity. Texas has a "do-right" statute that says there is a presumption that back child support should extend no more than four years. But if the father knew or should have know he was the father, plus sought to avoid establishment of the child support order, the presumption is rebutted, so the mother can go all the way back to the child's birth.

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