Can child support be awarded retroactively in Illinois?

Illinois Retroactive Child Support Explained

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

The process of obtaining child support can be a frustrating and, at times, convoluted process without the right help and information. You may be wondering, “Can I get retroactive payments? How far back do the payments go? What rules surround applying for child support?” This article will shed light on the process and rules associated with getting retroactive child support in Illinois.

For an overview of Illinois child support law, check out our article: Illinois Child Support 2019.

Can child support be awarded retroactively in Illinois?

The quick answer is, yes. Child support can be backdated or retroactively awarded in the state of Illinois; however, as with most cases of a legal nature there is a process and time is of the essence. In paternity cases, the general rule is that child support will be rewarded back to the date the parent in question was served with “Papers to Establish a Father-Child Relationship” (Parent in question is the father in this case). If the father is served with “Papers to Establish a Father-Child Relationship on October 1st followed by the Mother filing a motion requesting Child Support on December 1st with the court hearing being settled February 1st and the Mother being awarded Child Support then at the very least payments will be awarded dating back to October 1st.

In cases in which one of the parties files a petition to modify an existing child support order, the parties' child support obligations can be modified retroactively to the date of the petition to modify the child support.

What if I didn’t file for child support right away?

What if I didn’t file for child support right away?

Let’s say in the example above that little Jimmy is now eight years old and the Mother or Father go through the same process. In cases where the parent did not apply for child support until some time had past after the birth of the child the immediate rules are still the same, and retroactive payments can be ordered starting at the date of the parent being served with the proper papers. So, little Jimmy’s Father would be forced to pay child support back to October 1st. But what about the previous eight years? Below is a list of factors the court must consider when deciding to award Retroactive Child Support beyond the initial filing date:

  • The Father’s prior knowledge of the fact and circumstance of the child’s birth;
  • Father’s willingness or refusal to assist raising or support the child;
  • Reasons for the delay in filing for Child Support;
  • The extent to with the Father would be prejudiced by the delay in bringing action
  • The extent to with the Mother previously informed the Father of the child’s needs or made attempts to seek or require his help in raising or supporting the child

Update 8/30/18:

A viewer posted the following question on our YOUTube Channel:

Q: In Southern IL. Wanted to know what IL statute or case law allows for Retroactive CS, if the mother did not previously petition, based on the factors you talk about in this video. So the father knew the child was his, never offered to pay CS and threaten not to be involved if placed on CS. Also abuse by dad to mom. Please help.

A: Thanks for your question.  The statute that lists the factors is 735 ILCS 46/802(e).  Here's a link:


There is no hard-set rule for how far back retroactive support can be awarded, with the decision falling to the judge presiding over the case. Obtaining retroactive child support can be an emotional process but if the proper steps are followed and the appropriate facts and information are presented to the court it need not be a difficult one. Seeking out proper legal counsel is the first step to achieving your goals. Educate yourself on the process and be prepared to answer the questions listed above.

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