There is a difference between retroactive child support and arrears.
What is the difference? Well, let’s first take a look at retroactive child support.
Retroactive Child Support
It is as simple as the word. “Retro” is short for ‘retrograde’ which means backward” or “behind”.
When a judge orders retroactive child support, she is ordering you to START making a certain payment for a period of time in a child’s life that you did not financially support him or her. For example, the custodial parent may ask the court that you should pay child support ($500) from the date of separation. So, if you are filing for divorce, but you have been separated for 3 years, and the child is now 6 – well, let’s do the math.
6 years – 3 years = 3 years.
500 * 36 months = $18,000
Therefore, custodial parent is asking that, upon final hearing, you begin to make payment of $500 plus $18,000 in retroactive child support.
Once the judge signs an order to this effect, it becomes a payment you owe. The good news is that you can include in your Final Order a payment plan. Especially, if you are on a wage withholding order, add an extra $100 to your monthly child support payments.
By the end of the divorce – assuming it doesn’t drag on for a year or so, you are responsible for $600 until your retroactive support is paid in full. Once paid in full, your monthly payment returns to the court ordered amount of $500.
What is Arrears?
Arrearages or Arrears refer to ‘back child support’. In other words, you fail to pay the support amount that the judge ordered.
This is dangerous. It is? Absolutely.
Non-custodial parent can be placed in contempt of court order.
If you fail to pay child support, it becomes a debt.
Keep in mind that child support is a debt that cannot be discarded. You can not get rid of it by filing bankruptcy. Some supports even survive the death of the obligor. That is, your estate may have to continue to pay your child support death. It is a serious issue for the state.
- Know the difference
- Keep track of your child support debts and payments
- Calculate – you can use the child support calculator on the office of attorney general’s website
- Don’t ignore court order – read your court order and know what, where, and to whom you make payment
Bonus: Did you know that a divorcing couple can agree on retroactive child support? That’s right!
A couple can agree on a retroactive child support amount. The court will not make that decision on its own; however, it may place the non-custodial on child support, if he is not already on one.
What do I do if I am in arrears?
Maybe you received a letter from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) – child support division on missed child support payments.
It is the job of the state of Texas to enforce the court order and track your payment. This is especially true if a child is on government assistance program or welfare. Someone has to pay for these programs.
So, what do you do when you get the letter?
First, follow the instructions in the letter.
Next, contact the child support office to schedule an appointment for a negotiation conference. But, it is even more important to know your rights and what the child support guideline is. You must know how much you should pay.
Lastly, talk to the state’s attorney to arrange a payment plan.
If you are able to retain an attorney, do so! It will make life and the entire process stress-free and smoother.
Sometimes, life happens. If you lose your job and are struggling with payments, ask for modification of child support payments based on a “material change in circumstance”. You are not required to attend the negotiation conference. If you do not show up, be prepared to be served with a lawsuit from the OAG.
When you are served with a lawsuit, get an attorney.
Got more questions about your case? Give us a call. (832) 529-1255.