Arrears Are Forever


Is there a statute of limitations on child support arrears? No. If a party owes child support arrears from 7 years ago, can the other party collect on the arrears? Yes. Can the parties waive child support arrears? No. Arrears are forever…until they’re paid in full.


Family Code § 4503 tells us that even if a child has aged out of the Court’s jurisdiction to award child support (18 years old), arrears are still due and owing and the child turning 18 does not prohibit the owed parent from collecting past due child support. It specifically states, “If a parent has been ordered to make payments for the support of a minor child, an action to recover an arrearage in those payments may be maintained at any time within the period otherwise specified for the enforcement of such a judgment, notwithstanding the fact that the child has attained the age of 18 years.”


Further, Family Code § 291 states “A money judgment or judgment for possession or sale of property that is made or entered under this code, including a judgment for child, family, or spousal support, is enforceable until paid in full or otherwise satisfied.”


In the case of Marriage of Sabine and Toshio M., the court found that arrears were owed on an order from 10 years prior that Toshio had not paid. In re Marriage of Sabine and Tashio M. (2007)153 Cal.App.4th 1203. In Sabine and Toshio M., the Court ordered that Toshio pay Sabine $1,750 per month in child support, $1,000 per month in spousal support and medical insurance related expenses on behalf of their child. The order was dated 1995 and established there was already an arrears of $40,418. Toshio moved to Japan and did not make any payments. In 2002, Toshio offered Sabine $100,000 to satisfy the arrears owed. This was only a portion of what Toshio actually owed. In 2005, it was determined that Toshio was in arrears $264,692 for child support, $94,441 in spousal support and $14,066 for medical expenses related to their child.


The court determined “in general, arrearages—support payments that are past due—cannot be forgiven.” Toshio owed the total arrears. The fact that he made partial payment was determined to be just that, a partial payment and that parties even if they wanted to, could not modify arrears. They determined support orders are enforceable until paid in full.

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