If you’re an adult and one of your parents didn’t pay court-ordered child support for you, you may feel that money is owed to you – and you may want to sue your deadbeat parent to get it. But however justified your outrage might be, the law isn’t on your side: in most cases, you don’t have legal standing to sue your ne’er-do-well parent for the unpaid child support. Child support is owed to the other parent and is not a debt owed to the child. If there is unpaid child support, it’s up to your mom or dad to sue their irresponsible ex for the money.
Child support goes to the other parent
That isn’t to say you can’t help your conscientious parent get the child support that was wrongfully withheld. For starters, you can encourage them to pursue a claim and then get the ball rolling by finding a lawyer who specializes in child support cases. Just remember that if the suit succeeds, the money collected will be paid to your parent, not to you. Also, keep in mind that each state has its own statute of limitations that determines how long someone has to sue to enforce a child support order.
What if that other parent is deceased?
There is one instance where you, the adult child, can sue your deadbeat parent for missed child support. This is when the parent who was owed the support has died and you represent their estate. The money is still owed to your deceased parent’s estate, so you can enforce that order and collect it for the estate, where it will be distributed according to the terms of the will or state laws governing inheritance.
Child support for disabled adult children
If you’re a disabled adult who needs financial assistance to care for yourself, you may be able to sue your parent for support. If you receive government assistance, it will be considered in calculating whether you’re entitled to support and, if so, how much you need. You cannot sue your parent for unpaid support for the years during which you were a minor; you can only sue on behalf of yourself as a disabled adult.
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts in handling missed child support: statute of limitations, location, where the parents reside, the state of their health and finances, and more. With all those variables, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. Just getting that initial question answered can make all the difference in getting peace of mind in moving forward, whatever the best option may be for you.