My ex is behind on child support – can I withhold visitation?

You are the parent of a great kid, and both you and the other parent love that kid more than anything. Regardless of how well, or how poorly, the two of you get along, you’ve been able to follow a schedule which allows the child to spend time with each of you. However, your ex has recently fallen behind on child support. Perhaps they have changed jobs, or they are angry about something else and are refusing to pay.

Whatever the reason, you are feeling frustrated by the whole situation and want to motivate the other parent to comply. You remember that a friend of yours stopped letting her child visit the other parent until he got caught up on his child support obligation, which he promptly did. If it worked for her, it could work for you, right?

Not so fast. Visitation – more commonly referred to these days as parent time – is a distinct issue in the law. It has no direct legal connection to payment of child support and cannot justifiably be used as a bargaining chip. Withholding of parent time is almost always unfavorably looked upon by the courts, especially if done in retaliation or to force compliance on other issues.

When one party fails to meet their support obligation and appears to suffer no consequences, it can often seem unfair – why are they “getting away with it?” It may help to look at this question in the broader context of how court orders work. These orders contain a set of directions which both parties are required to follow. This obligation is between you and the court – not you and the other party. Your ex’s failure to follow court orders does not give you a free pass to do the same. Unfortunately, many parents feel justified in doing so, particularly in the situation described above.

There is a better way to handle these sorts of problems. A qualified family law attorney can assist you in obtaining compliance with court orders or compensation for unpaid financial obligations. You can avoid the risk of court-imposed penalties while still protecting your interests – and those of your child.

This Article was written by Attorney Benjamin L. Lawrence of Hepworth & Associates and Associates.

Michael Hepworth

Michael Hepworth

Managing Attorney at Hepworth & Associates
Michael is the Managing Attorney of Hepworth & Associates, LLC.
Michael Hepworth

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