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Limits on Retroactive Pay for Child Support in Washington


Retroactive payments for child support — also known as back support — are often worrisome issues for parents in Washington. It is important for Washington parents to understand how the law views these issues, and what the limits for back support are when the child support order is made. Parents who do not fully grasp this issue might have a problem making the monthly payments and the back payments after the support agreement is established. This can lead to problems with child support enforcement and everything that entails.

If a custodial parent is not receiving public assistance, the division of child support will begin the claim according to the date the DCS gets the application for non-assistance services if the custodial parent sends the application directly to the DCS. The claim will start for children who only receive Medicaid when the date those benefits began. The court is not limited in seeking back support if paternity establishment is needed or if the back support must be paid for up to five years.

If the state is paying public assistance to the custodial parent, there must be a reasonable effort made on the part of the state to locate the noncustodial parent. A notice will be served by the DCS if there is a finding of parental or financial responsibility within 60 days after the state has taken responsibility of support for a dependent child. If this notice is not provided within those 60 days, the DCS will lose the right to be reimbursed for public assistance payments that were made afterward and prior to the serving of the notice. The DCS will not lose the right to be reimbursed if there was a reasonable effort made to locate the noncustodial parent or for 60 days after the DCS received notice that paternity was acknowledged.

If the establishment of paternity has yet to be made or the child support agreement is in dispute, the state might end up making payments to support the child. If establishment is then made, the noncustodial parent will likely be pursued for back payments. The law regarding this can be somewhat confusing and certain factors such as the timeframe in which the DCS notifies the noncustodial parent of the need to pay can arise. This is why any child support calculation and other issues must be considered with help from an attorney experienced in child support issues.

Source:, “388-14A-3350 Are there any limits on how much back support the division of child support can seek to establish?,” accessed on Nov. 17, 2015


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Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson and his legal team at Hodgson Law Office provide exceptional, personalized representation in family law and divorce cases. With a commitment to trust, integrity, and vigorous advocacy, Hodgson Law Office offers reliable and compassionate legal assistance for all your family law issues.

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