When parents in Pennsylvania separate before they divorce, there may be a period of time during which there is no set child-support agreement. While many separated noncustodial parents contribute financially to the support of their children, there are situations in which this does not happen. As a result, the parent with primary physical custody may ask the court to order retroactive financial contributions, also known as "back child support".
Parents considering requesting back child support should be aware that the other parent may not be legally obligated to make these payments. Instead, judges may examine the situation and make decisions based on the specifics of the case.
A parent who believes that he or she is entitled to back support payments should keep careful records of a child's financial needs, as well as document evidence that support was requested, but that these requests were ignored or refused. For example, the custodial parent may want to download copies of emails in which support for the children was discussed and requested.
Noncustodial parents who are likewise concerned about being required to make retroactive child support payments should also keep records of any money spent in support of their children. These records will be important in a court case or during negotiations.
Parents who are considering divorce or separation may benefit from speaking with an experienced family law attorney. The lawyer may be able to review the client's case and make recommendations regarding financial support, child custody and other applicable issues. In addition, families who are concerned about their current child support agreement may be able to work with a lawyer to obtain a modification of the original order.