How Far Back Can Child Support Be Ordered in North Carolina?

By Rob Jennings J.D.

If you have just been served with a petition for child support, you may worry about paying retroactive child support. North Carolina only allows retroactive child support going back for up to three years. The rules for calculating retroactive child support changed in 2011, however. As a result, your trial judge has considerable discretion in how retroactive child support is figured.

Retroactive Child Support

Retroactive child support is child support ordered for a time period preceding the filing of a child support claim. This is different from "prospective" child support, which is ordered from the filing of the claim through the date of the order. To receive retroactive child support for the three-year period before filing, a party must affirmatively request retroactive support in their application. It is not automatically awarded.

2011 Changes

The North Carolina Conference of Chief District Judges, which meets periodically and reviews the state's child support guidelines, made important changes to the establishment of retroactive support in its 2011 revisions. The new guidelines reflect the Court of Appeals ruling in Carson v. Carson and now prohibits an award of retroactive support that is different from that called for by a written agreement that was never incorporated into a divorce judgment. The new guidelines also specify that in awarding retroactive support, the court should use the guidelines in effect at the time. Trial courts still have the choice between basing retroactive awards on the guidelines or on the obligated parent’s fair share of the expenses actually paid by the custodial period on behalf of the child during the three-year period immediately prior to the filing for child support.

Get a free, confidential bankruptcy evaluation. Learn More

Calculating Retroactive Support

North Carolina uses the "income shares" model, so both parents' incomes are used to calculate child support under the guidelines. With retroactive support, however, the court can choose between ordering guidelines support up to three years into the past or by ordering a parent to reimburse the other for his fair share of actual child-related expenses incurred on behalf of the child. Historically, North Carolina allowed retroactive support only for actual expenses paid; the 2006 Guidelines revision opened up the door to applying the guidelines retroactively. Be prepared to argue it both ways.

Unincorporated Agreement

When parents have established a child support obligation in a valid unincorporated contract, the contract conclusively determines the child support obligation during the time before a child support action is filed. The one exception is when the custodial parent has incurred emergency expenses for a child in which the other parent should share. However, absent the emergency exception, a trial court cannot enter a retroactive child support order in an amount other than the contractually agreed upon amount.

Get a free, confidential bankruptcy evaluation. Learn More
California Laws on the Interception of a Tax Refund for Child Support Arrears


Related articles

South Carolina Child Support Laws

Like other states, South Carolina has laws that direct how child support is established and enforced when parents split up, including how paternity is established. As long as the custodial parent lives in South Carolina, South Carolina’s laws and helping agencies can be used, even if the noncustodial parent lives in another state. Many of South Carolina’s child support laws and procedures are similar to those of other states.

The Meaning of Traverse in a Patent

Traversing in a patent proceeding means to register a formal disagreement with the examiner's findings or requirements. An inventor must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to obtain protection for his invention. Once filed, the application is reviewed by a patent office examiner who decides whether to grant the patent. If the inventor doesn't agree with the examiner's rulings, either during the application process or the examiner's final decision, he must traverse.

Can a Mother Overturn Residential Custody?

If a court has made a residential custody determination, in some circumstances a mother can get it overturned. The rules for doing so are not any different for mothers than they are for fathers. The process and standards for overturning a custody decision are different in every state. However, many states have similar statutes.

Related articles

How to File Contempt of Court on Unpaid Child Support in Georgia

Although child support is the legal obligation of a non-custodial parent, it often goes unpaid. As the back child ...

New Mexico Child Support Regulations

In New Mexico, the amount of child support is determined based on the principle that a child should receive the same ...

What Is a Pending Divorce?

A divorce goes through many stages, starting from the first serious issues arising between a couple and terminating in ...

Can I Get Retroactive Child Support in New York?

New York courts routinely award retroactive child support to the custodial parent to cover expenses she incurs while ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED