Parent obligated to pay (Obligated Parent) loses their job. Maybe they find another job … but it pays less. Maybe they don’t.
Obligated Parent falls behind on child support. Further and further behind.
Obligated Parent just lets time go by and their obligations mount. They’re looking for a job, or a better one.
Perhaps proceedings to suspend Obligated Parent’s driver’s license are begun. Perhaps the other parent has already filed a Motion for Contempt and Enforcement.
Now Obligated Parent finally consults a family law lawyer and tells family law attorney they want to file to reduce child support (or alimony) … and “wipe out those arrears”.
That’s when the lawyer cringes. Every single time.
Because modifications of child support (or, for that matter, modifications of alimony) are prospective only. That means that the amount of support may be modified from the date of filing forward.
But not retroactively.
Modifications of child support (or modifications of alimony) do not cancel arrearages that have accrued already. And cannot reduce them.
Granted, a holding of contempt may not be in the cards, depending on the circumstances. But an order establishing the arrearages and enforcing payment will be.
Read more in this Boston Herald article: To get child support reduced, go to court now. Note: Massachusetts law and procedure differ from Florida law and procedure in certain important respects.