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Can a Houston Judge Order Me to Pay Retroactive Child Support?

Child support is established by court order in Texas. Typically the parent subject to the order is only required to pay from the date of the court’s ruling. However, there are circumstances where the judge may order retroactive support, i.e. for a period of time before the entry of the court’s order, perhaps dating back to the date of the child’s birth.

No Automatic Right to Retroactive Support

Section 154.009 of the Texas Family Code gives a judge the discretion to award retroactive child support if two conditions are met. First, the parent subject to the order “has not been previously ordered to pay support for the child.” Second, the parent “was not a party to a suit in which support was ordered.” Retroactive support may also be ordered if a prior child support order was “terminated” due to the “marriage or remarriage of the child’s parents,” and that marriage later ended in separation.

In deciding how much retroactive child support to award, a judge is bound by the guidelines contained in Section 154.131 of the Family Code. Basically, the judge needs to look at the “net resources” of the parent subject to the support order. The court should not award retroactive support in such amounts as would “impose an undue financial hardship” on the parent or his family. The court should also consider whether child’s mother “made any previous attempts” to notify the father of his “paternity or probable paternity.”

It is important to emphasize that retroactive child support is a matter of judicial discretion. A custodial parent does not have an automatic right to such support. Consider this recent custody dispute from here in Houston. A local judge awarded joint custody to a child’s biological father while simultaneously denying the mother’s request for retroactive child support under Section 154.009.

Specifically, the mother sought $218 per month in support for a three-month period in 2015. The mother alleged the father provided no child support, except paying for daycare costs, prior to the custody litigation. But according to the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals, evidence presented to the trial court showed the father “continuously provided for the child since birth, including paying $382.42 monthly for the child’s medical insurance and $845 monthly for daycare. ” In addition, he regularly provided food and clothing for the child when requested by the mother. Based on all this, the trial judge determined retroactive support was not warranted–and the 14th District affirmed that ruling.

Get Help From a Houston Child Support Lawyer

In any child support case, it is important to present the court with accurate evidence of a parent’s financial status and any prior payments. Whether you are the parent seeking support or the party who is potentially liable, it is important to have experienced legal representation. If you need assistance from an experienced Texas child support and spousal support attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City today.