The Difference Between Arrears and Back Child Support

Arrears and Back Child Support

When it comes to child support, there are two common terms you might hear – arrears and back child support. While these terms may be used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing. In this blog post, we’ll explain what the difference between arrears and back child support is and how they may affect your family.

What Are Arrears?

Arrears refer to any unpaid child support payments that have been due since the last payment was made. This includes payments that are past due or overdue. For example, if you were supposed to pay your child support on the first of each month for a year but didn’t make a payment in April, then all of the missed payments from April to December would be considered arrears.

In most jurisdictions, interest will accrue on any unpaid arrears at a certain rate until they are paid off in full. Additionally, depending on your state laws, failure to pay your arrears can result in wage garnishment, suspension of driver’s license or other penalties. It is important to pay your arrears as quickly as possible to avoid any negative consequences that could result from not paying them off in full and on time.

What Is Back Child Support?

Back child support (also known as retroactive child support) is different than arrears because it refers to unpaid amounts accrued prior to an existing court order being established.

This means that if someone was not paying their court-ordered child support before the court order was issued—or if there wasn’t one in place yet—any outstanding amount owed during that period is considered back child support rather than arrears.

Similarly, if someone has been ordered by a court or agreed with another parent informally to pay more than what is specified by law, then any missed payments from before an existing court order would also be considered back child support rather than arrears.


In summary, when it comes to understanding what’s owed for child care expenses between parents who have separated or divorced, it’s important to understand the difference between arrearages and back child support so you can ensure everyone involved receives their fair share of money for their children’s needs. If you need help understanding this issue further or determining what is owed under current court orders or agreements with another parent, contact an experienced family law attorney today for assistance with navigating this complex legal matter.