In Texas it is the responsibility of a mother and father to adequately support their child. An adequate support usually comes in the form of child support payments monthly. It is a common mistake of judgment to attempt to hide from child support obligations or willfully ignore the obligation. Intentional non-payment gives rise to contempt proceedings
The circumstances regarding the parent’s decision not to pay child support is considered by the court in contempt proceedings. Texas Family Code 154.131 strictly deals with retroactive child support payments. There are four factors a Texas Court will consider when determining how far back a parent must make child support back-payments. They are:
- If the mother of the child had made any previous attempts to notify the obligor (delinquent parent) of his paternity or probable paternity;
- If the obligor (delinquent parent) had knowledge of his paternity or probable paternity;
- If the order of retroactive child support will impose an undue financial hardship on the obligor (delinquent parent) or the obligor’s family; and
- If the obligor (delinquent parent) has provided actual support or other necessities before the filing of the action.
All these factors will be taken into consideration by a Texas Court when determining how far back and how much an individual must pay child support.
If it is reasonable and in the best interest of the child then the Texas Family Code 154.131(c) allows for the Court to assign retroactive child support payments that only extends back 4 years. The option to confine retroactive child support payments to only four years may be contested by the parent requesting the child support. A parent that is contesting the Court’s decision in allowing the delinquent parent to pay back only four years’ worth of back-payments will have the burden of proof to establish:
- The Obligor (delinquent parent) knew or should have known that he was the father of the child for whom the support is sought
- The Obligor (delinquent parent) sought to avoid the establishment of support obligation to the child
If, however, a father is delinquent on child support because he did not know of the child’s existence, was told by the mother that his support was not wanted or needed, or the father had been paying a certain amount prior to the filling of the child support then the Court will likely only award retroactive payments of four years or less. If the father has willfully refused or ignored his obligation to pay support and adequately support his child, then the Court has the authority to order that delinquent parent to pay retroactive child support payments dating back to the day the child was born.
Retroactive child support can be complex and tricky considering the multiple circumstances in which this problem may arise. If you find yourself in this predicament and have received a summons to a Texas Child Support Court, then contact an experienced attorney immediately to see what can be done and how to best effetely address this unavoidable issue.