How Does Retroactive Child Support Work In Florida?

June 6, 2024

Child support is a crucial aspect of ensuring the well-being of children following a divorce or separation. In cases where child support payments were not initially established or were insufficient, retroactive child support may be ordered to cover the period before a formal support order was in place. Understanding how retroactive child support works in Florida is essential for parents navigating the complexities of family law.

What is Retroactive Child Support?

Retroactive child support refers to child support payments that cover expenses incurred before a formal child support order was established. This may occur in cases where the non-custodial parent failed to provide financial support for the child during the period before a support order was in place. Retroactive child support is designed to ensure that both parents contribute to the financial needs of their child, even if support payments were not initially established.

Factors Considered in Retroactive Child Support Orders

When determining retroactive child support in Florida, courts consider various factors to ensure fairness and equity:

1. Date of Separation or Divorce Filing

The date of separation or the filing date of the divorce petition serves as the starting point for calculating retroactive child support. Retroactive support may be awarded from the date of separation or the date when the custodial parent filed for child support, depending on the circumstances of the case.

2. Parental Income and Financial Resources

Courts assess both parents’ income and financial resources to determine the appropriate amount of retroactive child support. This includes income from employment, self-employment, investments, and other sources. Courts may impute income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to avoid child support obligations.

3. Child’s Needs and Expenses

The child’s needs and expenses play a significant role in calculating retroactive child support. Courts consider factors such as the child’s age, health, education, extracurricular activities, and special needs when determining the amount of support owed. Retroactive support aims to cover past expenses related to the child’s upbringing and care.

4. Parental Responsibility

Both parents have a legal obligation to support their child financially. Courts may consider each parent’s contribution to the child’s care and upbringing when determining retroactive child support. Factors such as parenting time, involvement in the child’s life, and financial contributions to the child’s expenses are taken into account.

How Retroactive Child Support is Calculated

In Florida, retroactive child support is calculated based on the state’s child support guidelines and formula. The court considers the parents’ incomes, the number of children involved, and any special circumstances when determining the retroactive support amount. The court may also consider the child’s needs and expenses during the retroactive period.

Statute of Limitations for Retroactive Child Support

It’s important to note that there is a statute of limitations for retroactive child support in Florida. Generally, retroactive support can only be awarded for a limited period preceding the filing of the child support petition. The specific time frame varies depending on the circumstances of the case and the child’s age.

Legal Process for Seeking Retroactive Child Support

To seek retroactive child support in Florida, the custodial parent must file a petition with the family court. The petition should outline the reasons for seeking retroactive support and provide documentation of the child’s expenses during the retroactive period. Both parents will have an opportunity to present evidence and arguments regarding the retroactive support amount during court proceedings.


Retroactive child support is an important aspect of Florida’s child support system, ensuring that both parents contribute to the financial needs of their child. Understanding how retroactive child support works and the factors considered in determining retroactive support amounts is essential for parents navigating family law matters. By consulting with experienced family law attorneys and understanding their rights and obligations under Florida child support law, parents can work towards fair and equitable outcomes for their children’s financial support.

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