I was recently asked if an adult child could go back after their father for child support even though they are now an adult. Their mother never wanted to but she had died and the adult child (who was 45) wanted to try to make their father pay child support for all of those years. I also had a similar question from a 23 year old who just found out who her biological father was and wanted to know if he could be adjudicated as her father. Both of these adult children wanted to know if they could collect past child support.
In Wisconsin, the law is clear that a paternity action must be commenced prior to a child’s 19th birthday. Child support typically commences from the date of service of a valid legal paternity action or an adjudication of paternity.
Also in Wisconsin, the court cannot order retroactive child support, whether in a paternity or divorce case. The soonest the court can order or modify child support is from the date of service of a valid action or a motion. In other words, under the scenarios above, neither of those adult children could obtain the relief they wanted to under the laws of the State of Wisconsin nor could their father be ordered to pay past support.
If, on the other hand, there had been an order for child support entered while the child was a minor that had never been paid by responsible parent, that order can be enforced and the past due support collected for up to 20 years after the termination date of the child support order. In addition, in the aforementioned situation, the person looking to collect past child support can also convert an arrears (past-due child support) order to a money judgment after the date the child reaches the age of majority to give him or her more options for collecting.