Can Child Support in RI be Modified Retroactively?

Rhode Island paternity and child support attorney, David Slepkow discusses the issue of retroactive child support in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  The general rule is that a person must seek to modify child support when circumstances change because support does not run back to the date circumstances changed. Child support runs retroactive in two circumstances under Rhode Island child support law:

  1. After a motion to modify child support is filed with the Providence Family Court, support may go retroactive back to the date the opposing party was served with service of process.
  2. In a paternity cause of action in RI, the Judge, Magistrate or General Magistrate has discretion to run the support back 6 years.
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The Rhode Island Family Court may only modify a Child Support order retroactively back to the date of the service of process of the motion to modify child Support.

Please review Rhode Island General Laws 15-5-16.2.4: § 15-5-16.2.4  Retroactive modification of child support. – Notwithstanding the provisions of § 15-5-16.2, the court, in its discretion, may modify a child support order retroactively only to the date that notice of a petition to modify was given to the adverse party if it finds that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred. The court shall set forth in its decision the specific findings of fact which show a substantial change in circumstances and upon which findings of fact the court has decided to make its order of modification retroactive. The court, in its discretion, may for good cause shown suspend payment of child support arrearages until there is a finding by the court of financial ability to make payment on arrearages; provided, that incarceration for nonpayment of child support shall not constitute good cause to suspend payment of child support or child support arrearages.

In a RI Paternity Case, child support may run retroactive for 6 years! The applicable Rhode Island statute is 15-8-4.

§ 15-8-4 Limitation on recovery from the father. The father’s liabilities for past education and necessary support and maintenance are limited to a period of six (6) years next preceding the commencement of an action under the provisions of this chapter. History of Section. (P.L. 1979, ch. 185, § 2.)  TITLE 15
Domestic Relations CHAPTER 15-8 Uniform Law on Paternity SECTION 15-8-4


About half (48.9 percent) of all custodial parents had either legal or informal child support agreements, and custodial mothers were more likely to have agreements (53.4 percent) than custodial fathers (28.8 percent). • About three-quarters (74.1 percent) of custodial parents who were due child support in 2011 received either full or partial payments, including 43.4 percent who received full payments. • Over half (56.3 percent) of custodial parents with joint-custody arrangements received full child support payments, and 30.7 percent received full payments when there was no contact between the child and the child’s noncustodial parent(s). • About 62.3 percent of the $37.9 billion in child support due in 2011 was reported as received, averaging $3,770 per year per custodial parent who was due support. ” Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2011 Current Population Reports By Timothy Grall October 2013 P60-246

Legal Notice per RI Rules of Professional Responsibility:

The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer/ attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.