Divorcing parents often think of child custody and child support as intertwined. That’s why it’s not uncommon for a parent who is behind on child support payments to have their co-parent try to deny them the custody or visitation rights they’ve been granted until they “pay up.”
If you’re the parent being denied the right to spend time with your child, it’s important to know that your co-parent is likely violating a court order. Certainly, you should pay the amount you owe and pay it on time. If you don’t, your co-parent does have the right to take legal action to get the money one way or another – possibly by having your wages garnished. You could even end up behind bars.
If you can’t comply with the support order, notify the court
That’s why it’s crucial to let the court know if circumstances have changed (for example, maybe you’ve lost your job or there was a costly medical situation) and seek a modification of your support order. Even if you told your co-parent and they agreed to get by on less, you still need to notify the court since you’re in violation of a court order.
Let’s get back to the issue of access to your child. Courts consider parenting time crucial to a child. A child shouldn’t be prevented from seeing a parent because they aren’t abiding by the child support order, because that’s penalizing the child as well as the parent.
Support can’t be withdrawn because a co-parent is denying access
On the flip side, a parent who is denied their rightful access to their child by their co-parent can’t just stop paying child support until access is restored. Support is not paid in return for access but to help the child have the best possible life both parents are financially capable of giving them.
It’s crucial for both parents to understand that, regardless of how frustrated there are with the other’s behavior, parental access and child support are not a quid pro quo situation. If one parent isn’t complying with a custody or support order, their co-parent may need to get court intervention and present their reasoning for their actions.
Whichever scenario you’re in and whichever side of the situation you’re on, it’s wise to have legal guidance as you present your case. Remember, the important thing is doing what’s best for your child.