Every parent has an obligation to maintain their child. This obligation exists independent of laws or orders by a court. Therefore, a child has a right to receive support from his/her parent until he or has reached the age where it is no longer required by law. This right that a child has to receive support survives even when there has been a breakdown in the parent’s relationship. A non-custodial parent that is a parent who does not have custody of the child is often required to pay child support. Where a non-custodial parent failed to pay child support or has missed payments then this is called back child support. Back child support can also be called child support arrearages. A court may also award retroactive child support based on the date child support was requested or modification of child support was requested. The issue of retroactive child support is a discretionary feature by the court in some states or it can be mandatory in others.
Where child support is in arrears then the custodial parent or guardian or caregiver has a right to claim for the sum that is in arrears as a permanent order was made by the court. The courts through the policies of the state and federal laws can punish individuals who fail to comply with court orders for child support in a very rigid way. The law stipulates that a person can in be punished in the following ways where he/her has failed to pay child support in arrears:
- Denial of Passport. If more than $2,500 is owed in back child support then the non-custodial parent is not eligible for a passport.
- Wage Garnishment- where back child support was claimed then the government can garnish the wages to pay your child support debt.
- Jail Time- where a party is non-compliant and has not made any arrangement to try to pay back child support then he/she may be incarcerated.
- Suspension of Licenses- the government can suspend a parent’s licence where he/she fails to pay their child support.
- Seizure of Tax Refund. The government may seize your tax refund if you owe back child support.
- Property Seizure. A parent might find his or her property seized to help pay the debt.
The protection given to custodial parents to ensure that an individual comply with the requirements of the court in regards to child support shows that the court is willing and able to award any judgement based on the fact that a non-custodial parent has been delinquent. The court and the government have a strong belief that a child ought to be supported by his/her parents. Punishment in regards to child support in the United States is one of the most stringent in the world.
As previously stated there is also retroactive child support in which the court has the discretion in some states to order. An example of retroactive child support is when a parent makes an application in the court for child support but the court may take weeks or months to give you a date. In most states retroactive child support is not mandatory as the court does not view that the individual has a right since the orders were not formally made. Therefore, when the court addresses the issue of child support they may award retroactive child support. Retroactive child support can be ordered from the date of the child’s birth if the parents were not married as in Illinois. But each state has a limit on how far a court goes to award retroactive child support. Generally, the court does not award retroactive child support unless it is justified. Some of the considerations when awarding child support include:
- Whether the final hearing on child support was delayed
- The parent seeking support is in need
- The non-custodial parent intentionally tried to conceal his finances
A parent or guardian can make a claim to recover all money outstanding that has not been paid by the non-custodial parent. The court has a variety of options to ensure that the parent honors his/her obligation to pay child support such as imprisonment. A parent can also ask the court for retroactive child support for the non-custodial parent to pay child support between the date of filing for child support and the date where a permanent order was given.