A mother and child playing on the floor after she’s received child support back pay in Texas

How to Get Child Support Back Pay in Texas

The Texas family court system aims to determine the appropriate amount of child support that a parent should receive from the other parent to care for the child. The goal is to make decisions in the child’s best interest, but there are times when not everything works out correctly the first time.

Sometimes, one parent hides income that should have been factored in the child support determination. Other times, there is a case of mistaken parentage where the wrong person was assigned child support obligations.

Whatever the situation, you can pursue child support back pay in Texas. Let’s examine this child support issue so that you can receive what you are owed.

What Does the Law Say About Support Back Pay in Texas?

The Texas Family Code deals specifically with what is known as “retroactive child support.” If certain requirements are met in your case, then a Texas family court judge can award you back pay for the months or years where you did not receive the appropriate amount of child support – or did not receive child support at all.

The key to this situation is that there is a statute of limitations of four years. According to the law, a court order for back pay cannot exceed the amount “that would have been due for the four years” before you request back pay.

For example, if you finalized a divorce in 2015, then found out in 2022 that your ex-spouse withheld income during the divorce proceedings that would have factored into the child support calculation, then you can only petition the court to receive back pay covering the most recent four years. You wouldn’t be able to receive seven years’ worth of back pay.

Now, let’s review what the law says about the circumstances that would allow you to initiate a claim for back pay.

Circumstances Where You Can Request Retroactive Pay in Texas

According to the Texas Family Code, a court can order a parent to pay retroactive child support in the following situations:

  • The parent was not previously ordered to pay child support. For example, this person dodged the court and the parent requesting child support but was later found.
  • The parent was not a party to a suit in which support was ordered. For example, it was determined after the fact that someone else was the actual parent of the child.

Additionally, a court could “reinstate” a previous child support order that would force a parent to pay retroactive child support. There are three examples cited in the law that cover the following situations:

  • The previous child support order terminated as a result of the marriage or remarriage of the child’s parents.
  • The child’s parents separated after the marriage or remarriage.
  • A new child support order is sought after the date of the separation.

The best way to think about these examples is that an event caused the original court order for child support to be “suspended.” For example, one spouse re-married, which caused the original spouse to no longer be obligated to pay child support. But, the second marriage ended in divorce. Now the original child custody order could be reinstated, and back pay could be ordered that is retroactive to the date of the original parents’ separation.

– I have covered what the law says about when you can pursue back pay. There are other situations on a case-by-case basis where you could petition the court to consider ordering back pay. The most common example is when the original spouse withheld income that should have been factored into the calculation.

If your situation falls into the category of discovering hidden income – or if you have another reason for pursuing child support back pay from your ex-spouse – then get in touch with me to discuss your case. I can provide you with legal advice on the merits of your argument.

How the Court Will Determine the Amount of back pay

The Texas Family Code provides guidance on how the courts should determine the amount of back pay owed from one party to the other.

If a court sides with your argument and orders retroactive child support, then the court will consider the “net resources” of the party that owes child support (known as the obligor) during the relevant time period in question. The court will also review the following factors when making a monetary determination:

  • Whether the mother made any previous attempts to notify the obligor of his paternity or probable paternity.
  • Whether the obligor new about his paternity or probable paternity.
  • Whether the order for back pay will “impose an undue financial hardship” on the obligor and their family.
  • Whether the obligor provided actual support before the request for back pay.

The court also has the ability to weigh additional factors in the determination of back pay if the obligor intentionally neglected his duties as the biological parent of the child. Two examples cited in the law include:

  • The obligor knew or should have known that he was the child’s father.
  • The obligor sought to avoid the establishment of child support.

As noted before, the amount of back pay ordered cannot exceed four years’ worth of back pay.

There is another provision related to the four-year benchmark. A Texas court does have the power to circumvent adulthood that would technically release the obligor from his obligations to pay child support. A court can order retroactive child support if the suit is filed “not later than the fourth anniversary of the date of the child’s 18th birthday.”

For example, if your child turned 18 in 2018 and you discover in 2022 that your ex-spouse withheld income that should have been factored in the child support calculation, you could petition the court to receive back pay, even though the child is now 22 years old.

Work With a Texas Family Law Expert to Receive Back Pay

Every child support situation is unique. That’s why I encourage you to work with a family law expert such as myself to assess your situation, apply the law to your case, and advocate on your behalf to receive child support back pay.

I currently help parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County with child support legal matters. If you live in one of these counties, then contact me right away to discuss your situation.

Call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your pursuit of child support back pay in Texas. I’m here to help you receive income that is rightfully yours!