Can I sue my ex-husband for back child support?

Updated March 23, 2017

You can sue your ex-husband for back child support, but the time frame in which you can do so may be restricted by your state's statute of limitations. Several states regard child support in the same manner as other judgments that can be collected on until the statute of limitations on the judgment expires.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations dictates the specified time period during which legal action can be taken for an alleged crime, damage or injury. The statute of limitations for collecting back child support is linked to the date for which the last support payment is due, as in the state of Michigan, where the statute of limitations on back child support expires 10 years past the date when the last child support payment is due. Some states, like California, do not have a statute of limitations on collecting back child support.


Every child has the fundamental right to receive support, and your ex-husband can get into a significant mess by failing to make court-ordered child support payments. The problems that may arise for him can include, but are not limited to: criminal charges, losing his driver's license and wage garnishment. In most states, your husband could also be arrested on contempt of court charges and put in jail for up to six months.


When you sue your ex-husband for back child support, he will have to appear in court with proof that he has paid the required support amounts. If he has no proof, he will be ordered by the court to pay as directed in the child support order. If he is unable to pay right away, it is likely his wages will be garnished, which means you will receive support payments directly from a third party before your ex-husband collects his wages.


The collection of back child support may include additional support that your ex-husband may have been ordered to pay, including 50 per cent of all medical, dental and ophthalmology services not covered by insurance, the full cost of after-school care, reasonable costs for transportation for visitation, as well as the maintaining of the children as beneficiaries on his life and health insurance policies.

Another Option

It is also possible to file a lien (legal claim) against your ex-husband's property for collection of back child support. You must go to court to have support payment arrearages relegated to a court order before you can file a lien against his property. He must actually own the house or at least have an ownership interest in the house as a tenant in common for the lien to be enforceable.

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About the Author

Based in California, Debbie Donner is a freelance online writer who primarily writes articles related to personal finance. Donner received a Mensa scholarship in 2006 while attending California State University, Fresno. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and a multiple-subject teaching credential.