How Long Can You Sue for Back Child Support?

Price Family Law
Denver Family Law Attorney

If you are awarded child support after a divorce or separation, you may wonder, “How long can you sue for back child support?” This is a good question. You may also wonder if you can consult a divorce lawyer and sue for child support years later.

When your child’s non-custodial parent doesn’t pay the amount of child support they were ordered to pay, then you (the custodial parent) can feel confident that the state and federal laws have established tough procedures to ensure the child support payment is enforced.

If a parent falls short and they owe back child support, they are often referred to as “deadbeat parents” or, more specifically, “deadbeat dads.” In some counties and states, deadbeat parents are even “shamed” by posting their names, pictures, and amount of delinquent child support online. In some cases, the phrase “deadbeat parent” is used to describe the laws related to delinquent child support.

It’s important to understand that “deadbeat parent” is not a legal phrase. If someone is late or delinquent with the child support they have been ordered to pay, then they are referred to as “in arrears.” That’s because when child support is owed, it’s referred to as “arrearages.”

Keep reading to learn more about collecting past-due child support and your rights here. You can also find answers to questions like “Can you sue for child support years later?” or “Can a child sue a parent for back child support payments?”

Understanding Child Support Laws on a Federal Level

According to the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, district attorneys and the state attorneys general have the authority to actively collect owed child support for the custodial parent it is owed to. They can also issue penalties to parents who haven’t paid.

With enforcement, the purpose is to encourage the parents who haven’t paid to pay the amount of child support that has been ordered. Sometimes, a “nudge” — such as denying their ability to get a passport — isn’t effective. If this is the case, then it is possible to apply even more severe penalties. It’s possible for a state attorney to take several different enforcement steps against the parent who is delinquent.

These enforcements include:

  • Reporting the debt to the credit agencies, which can impact the parent’s credit rating
  • Wage garnishment
  • Contempt order issued by a judge, which means the parent may serve time in jail
  • Putting a lien against any property or home the parent owes (if the property or home is sold, the proceeds will go toward the payment of delinquent child support first)
  • Suspension of the parent’s professional license or even driver’s license
  • Freezing bank accounts so that other money cannot be used.

Because parents who are in jail won’t be able to make any child support payments, hiring a child support lawyer is usually used as a last resort.

Understanding the Options for Interstate Collection of Child Support Payments

According to UIFSA (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act), it allows the enforcement of child support orders that are issued in states where a parent and child lived in the past.

Based on the information in this act, the court in the location where the child support order was issued has ongoing jurisdiction. This is true, no matter what state the child moves to. It is necessary for the new court to utilize the former child support order in these matters. For child support modifications, it’s necessary to make sure that it is compliant with the laws of the original state where the order was issued originally. Seeking guidance from a knowledgeable custody modification lawyer can help ensure that the legal proceedings align with the regulations of the relevant jurisdiction.

Sometimes, the custodial parent can take the reigns and have the order mailed to the court located out of state to get help when it comes to enforcing the child support order. Also, parents have the option to have this order sent to the delinquent parent’s employer in a different state in cases where wages will be garnished.

Colorado’s Law Related to Child Support Arrears

In Colorado, the general rule is that if back child support is owed, then the custodial parent can go through the court to collect those funds at any point.

In fact, Colorado law is written for them and in their favor. The parents can collect the back payments they are owed and even receive interest of 12% on the payments that are delinquent. If someone doesn’t pay back support or if they are in child support arrears, then it can result in wage garnishment, liens, and even prosecution.

You may wonder about cases when the parent isn’t aware of the child or their existence or where there was no prior order for child support to be paid. In these cases, the requirements depend. It’s worth noting that retroactive child support isn’t something that’s automatic in the state of Colorado. While this is true, it’s possible to have it ordered in some situations, such as:

  • The non-custodial parent was not honest about their income, or they tried to hide assets.
  • The non-custodial parent deliberately took steps to avoid paying the owed child support.
  • The custodial parent can show proof and need for retroactive support.
  • There was a delay when it came to filing for the support and the final ruling or hearing.

You should also understand that due to the Bradley Amendment, all past-due child support payments are not qualified for retroactive modification, nor will they be completely dismissed in court.

Understanding Child Support in Colorado

When it comes to child support, there are more than a few factors to consider. If you are unsure whether you can still receive delinquent payments, we can help at Price Family Law, LLC, a trusted family adoption attorney. At Price Family Law, LLC, we are here to help you with your case and situation. Being informed is the best way to ensure that you get the money owed and that the parent who owes is held responsible. In the long run, this is going to pay off.

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    Attorney Trista Price

    Trista McElhaney Price is a founding partner at Price Family Law, LLC. She specializes in high-asset divorce cases and legal matters involving complex business and financial issues as well as complex custody matters involving domestic violence, substance abuse issues, and mental health issues. Read Full Bio.