Can I Get Back Child Support If I Never Filed in Minnesota?
If you had primary custody of your child in Minnesota but never pursued child support from the other parent, you may be wondering if you can retroactively claim child support for those years. Under Minnesota child support law, the answer is yes—with some important caveats.
What is Retroactive Child Support?
Retroactive child support, sometimes called “back child support,” is child support that is ordered by a court to be paid back to the date of the child’s birth, the date of separation, or the date the child support case was filed.
It is financial support to reimburse the custodial parent for expenses they paid to care for the child before the court formally establishes child support. Retroactive support aims to prevent unpaid child support obligations from accruing.
Retroactive support and regular, ongoing child support payments can be ordered. It is a way for courts to ensure non-custodial parents uphold their financial duty to their children.
When Can a Minnesota Court Order Retroactive Child Support?
Under Minnesota Statute 518A.38, a court can order retroactive child support back to when the person seeking support served a motion on the other parent asking for child support.
Let’s break down an example:
You and your child’s other parent separated informally 5 years ago, with you taking on primary custody. No child support order was put in place. After 5 years, you decide you want to formalize custody and get child support.
On January 1, 2023, you filed a motion with the court asking for sole custody and child support. On January 5, you serve the other parent with notice of your motion. The court ultimately rules in your favor, granting you sole custody and ordering the other parent to pay child support. The court can make the child support order retroactive to January 5, 2023—the date you served notice on the other parent.
The court cannot order retroactive child support further back than the date of service. In this example, you could not get retroactive support back 5 years to when you initially took custody. The retroactive period would only run from January 5, 2023 forward.
What if the Parents Had an Informal Agreement?
Sometimes, separated parents have an informal agreement where one parent takes custody, and the other pays a certain amount of monthly child support, but without a formal court order.
If this situation applies to you, a Minnesota court can still order retroactive support—but only back to the date you served notice that you wanted formal child support through the courts. The courts cannot recover or enforce any informal support the other parent paid previously.
However, once you file a motion and serve it, a court could order the parent to continue paying support at the informally agreed amount. The order would cover payments going forward and retroactively.
Does Minnesota Limit How Far Back Retroactive Child Support Can Go?
Yes, Minnesota law does place additional limits on how far back a court can order retroactive child support:
- Two years for child support and pregnancy and confinement expenses: The court can order retroactive child support and expenses related to pregnancy and confinement no more than two years back from when notice was served.
- Three years for public assistance: If the parent seeking support received public assistance to care for the child, the court can order retroactive support for up to three years.
- Emancipation of a child: The court cannot order retroactive support for any period after a child is emancipated, generally occurring at age 18 in Minnesota.
So, in the previous example, although you served notice on January 5, 2023, the court could not order the other parent to pay full retroactive child support back to January 2011—only back to January 2021 at the furthest.
What Factors Does a Minnesota Court Consider for Retroactive Support?
Minnesota courts look at several factors when deciding whether to order retroactive child support, including:
- The income and financial situation of both parents during the retroactive period
- Whether the parent asking for retroactive support received public assistance related to caring for the child
- The efforts made by the parent seeking support to try to obtain a child support order previously
- Whether the other parent provided any financial support informally
- The relationship and living arrangements between the parents during the retroactive period
- Whether retroactive support would cause significant hardship for the paying parent
These factors balance the child’s need for support with the paying parent’s ability to provide it. If you seek retroactive support covering years when the other parent was unemployed or incarcerated, for example, a court may reduce the amount owed.
Can the Amount of Retroactive Support Be Modified?
Yes, either parent can file a motion asking the court to modify the amount of retroactive support ordered. When first determining retroactive support, the court will look at the parents’ financial situations and the child’s needs during the retroactive period.
If the paying parent experienced a substantial decrease in income or increase in expenses during those years, they may be able to get the retroactive amount reduced. The parent who received retroactive support could ask for an increase if the other parent’s financial situation was better than first represented during those years.
Should I Speak to a Family Law Attorney?
Trying to collect retroactive child support in Minnesota can be complex. The law limits how far back support can be ordered and considers many factors when determining the amounts owed.
Speaking with a Minnesota child support attorney can help you understand your options. An attorney can advise whether you may have a valid claim for retroactive support and for what period. They can also represent you in negotiating with the other parent and filing motions with the court.
At Martine Law, our Minnesota family law attorneys assist clients with all aspects of child support, including retroactive support claims. We treat these sensitive matters compassionately while fiercely advocating for our client’s rights. Contact our team today to schedule a consultation.