California Family Law Attorney

Practice Tips For Child Support Orders

While Family Code section 4009 seems to say that family courts can make child support orders retroactive to the date that, for instance, a Petition for Dissolution (or Paternity Complaint) is filed (that has the 'child support request box' checked), that is not how it is interpreted by the appellate decisions or the Law Revision Commission Comments - they say "section 4009 means what it says": A child support order may only be made retroactive to the date a Request for Order (formerly notice of motion or OSC request) is made. Okay, I respond, 'if you say so.' The provision that applies to retro spousal support orders, FC section 4333, is much clearer.

By the time you arrive at a support hearing, at least 30 days will have passed since you filed your Request for Order. Upon request courts typically order child or spousal support orders retroactive to the first or the fifteenth day of the month in which you filed, whichever is closest to the filing date. This means that if you file a child support application on the 14th day of February, most courts will make the orders effective on February 15. However, if you file on February 16, many courts will make their orders retroactive only to March 1. Hence, whenever possible, file your application as early as you can. This results in immediate built-in arrears which can be significant in high earner cases, or where the ultimate hearing gets stalled for some months.

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Family Code Section 4009

An original order for child support may be made retroactive to the date of filing the petition, complaint, or other initial pleading. If the parent ordered to pay support was not served with the petition, complaint, or other initial pleading within 90 days after filing and the court finds that the parent was not intentionally evading service, the child support order shall be effective no earlier than the date of service.