How Does Back-Pay Child Support Work In Florida?

September 11, 2022

How Far-Reaching Is Florida's Back-Pay Child Support Law?

Courts have ordered parents to pay retroactive child support for decades. The more common term for retroactive child support is back-pay child support. Regardless of the name, the concept is the same. When a mother sues you for back-pay child support, you're expected to pay. [i] In the past, courts could reach as far back as to the child's birth. From there, a court would calculate your monthly earnings throughout those years and multiple them by the number of years that you hadn't paid any financial support.

Today, a court may only reach back up to 24 months. This back-pay child support law came into effect in 1998. If your child was born before 1998, a judge could still order you to pay for as many months as you were financially absent.

EXAMPLE: Let's suppose the child is 26, and was born before 1998. In that case, you should still expect to be liable for the support money, which would be for the months of all 18 years of your child's youth.

Every child is entitled to support. It is every child's right, not the parents' right. Whether your child was born before or after 1998, you can anticipate paying back-pay child support regardless of how old the child is now.

How Is The Child Support Amount Determined from Gross Income?

Using Florida's Child Support Guidelines,[ii]a judge considers income “determined on a monthly basis” to include (but is not limited to) gross income as described to be:  

  • Salary or wages,
  • Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments,
  • Business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations, and independent contracts
  • Disability benefits,
  • All workers’ compensation benefits and settlements,
  • Reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation,
  • Pension, retirement, or annuity payments,
  • Social security benefits,
  • Spousal support received from a previous marriage or court ordered in the marriage,
  • Interest and dividends,
  • Rental income, which is gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses,
  • Income from royalties, trusts, or estates, and/or
  • Reimbursed expenses or in kind payments to the extent that they reduce living expenses.
Bear in mind, the mother may request as much as 5% more than the guideline amount. This is called a child support deviation. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 61.130(11)(a),[iii] a judge may consider granting this request based on the following deviation factors:
  • Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses.
  • Independent income of the child, not to include moneys received by a child from supplemental security income.
  • The payment of support for a parent which has been regularly paid and for which there is a demonstrated need.
  • Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ incomes or expenses.
  • The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children.
  • Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though fulfilling those needs will cause the support to exceed the presumptive amount established by the guidelines.
  • Total available assets to the child.
  • The impact of the Internal Revenue Service Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and dependency exemption and waiver of that exemption.
  • An application of the child support guidelines schedule that requires a person to ay another person more than 55 percent of his or her gross income for a child support obligation for current support resulting from a single support order.
  • The particular parenting plan, a court-ordered time-sharing schedule, or a time-sharing arrangement exercised by agreement of the parties, such as where the child spends a significant amount of time, but less than 20 percent of the overnights, with one parent, thereby reducing the financial expenditures incurred by the other parent; or the refusal of a parent to become involved in the activities of the child.

What Else Should I Know?

Paying child support can seem confusing. Might you still have to pay back-pay child support if you're paying child support for the current months? Most likely, yes.

Might you request a payment plan for back-pay child support payments? In Florida, absolutely.

Is back-pay child support the same as back-owed child support or child support arrears? No. You'll only owe retroactive child support when a court did not establish a child support order. Being in arrears means that you are delinquent (i.e. late) on present court-ordered payments. This slight difference can have serious repercussions to things such as your driver’s license, passport, and even receipt of any IRS income tax refunds.  

Do you owe Back-Pay Child Support? Next Steps.

There are many other vital details to know. Therefore, you’ll want to contact an experienced licensed attorney to discuss your specific situation.

If you're at risk for owing child support, you don't have to try and figure this out alone. The Joseph Firm, P.A., handles all types of family law matters, including child support, custody, and divorce.

Consult with one of the experienced child support attorneys at The Joseph Firm, P.A. about your matter by calling (305)-501-0992 or contacting us online today.


[i] See Florida's Child Support Guidelines for a general idea of what you can expect to pay.

[ii] § 61.130(2)(a)(1)-(14).

[iii] §61.130(11)(a).