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Is Child Support Retroactive in New Jersey?

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Child support orders are meant to establish a child support arrangement that carries through until the child reaches the legal age of majority. In practice, circumstances can change, and people do not always stick to their legal obligations. Moreover, many people do not know about their legal rights until years later, foregoing financial assistance they might have received. Can court orders apply retroactively to cover periods before the order was issued, or are they limited to the future? Read on to learn about retroactive child support in New Jersey. If you have questions or concerns regarding New Jersey child support, or if you are dealing with a current or future divorce, call a knowledgeable New Jersey child support attorney for advice and representation.

What is Retroactive Child Support?

Retroactive child support refers to any child support that would cover the time before a child support order is issued. Although children (by way of their custodial parent or guardian) are guaranteed child support, the legal obligation to start paying does not kick in until the court issues a child support order. A custodial parent may realize that an absentee co-parent should have been paying child support for years, but the custodial parent never went to court to request child support. They may then hope to obtain child support retroactive to whenever the obligation should have arisen–the birth of the child or when the parent moved out and stopped providing child care services, for example.

Alternatively, retroactive child support can refer to retroactive changes to an existing child support arrangement. Child support obligations can be modified when there is a significant change in circumstances. The payer may no longer be able to pay because of a serious financial hurdle, such as losing their job. If the event occurred months or years in the past, they might seek a retroactive modification of their existing obligation so that they do not have a child support obligation in arrears.

Retroactive Child Support is Not Permitted in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the answer regarding whether retroactive child support is allowed is relatively clear: New Jersey law provides that no child support order can be applied retroactively, except to the extent that a motion has been pending. That means that if a custodial parent fails to seek child support for months or years after the obligation should have arisen, they cannot seek child support retroactively to cover that period; they can only seek child support for the future.

Parties can only seek retroactive application back to the date that the pending action or motion for child support was filed. Court motions can take weeks or months to resolve, leaving the requesting party without financial assistance in the meantime. A court can order the child support payer to cover the time from when the notice of the motion for child support or modification was mailed as well as future child support after the date of the order. Parties may rely on a notice of motion before actually filing a motion, for example, when seeking modification of child support obligations; the actual motion must then be filed within 45 days.

If the child support obligation arose as part of a divorce proceeding, then the party requesting child support can seek retroactive child support back to the date the divorce was filed. New Jersey courts have allowed for retroactive child support back to the date a divorce complaint was filed when there was a request for child support in the complaint.

Back vs. Retroactive Child Support

This discussion of retroactive child support covers child support for the time before the child support order was issued. If a party was already subject to a child support order and simply hasn’t paid for some time, the receiving party can seek to recover all of the “back pay” the payer owes the recipient.

Call Our Dedicated New Jersey Child Support Law Firm Today for Advice and Assistance

If you’re dealing with child support issues or considering divorce in New Jersey, contact the efficient and thorough Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.

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