People often believe that child custody and child support orders are interdependent. Sometimes one parent will try to deny their co-parent their custody or visitation rights because they’re behind on their child support payments.
It may seem only fair that if a parent isn’t paying their child support in full and on time, they shouldn’t be allowed to see their child or should have their access limited. However, that’s not how it works.
Certainly, parents should make their child support payments. If they don’t, they’re violating a court order and can suffer consequences like having their wages garnished and – in extreme circumstances – going to jail.
Child support isn’t payment for access to a child
However, child support is ordered to make sure that parents take financial responsibility for their child and that they get the quality of life their parents are able to provide for them. Meanwhile, children generally benefit from maintaining a relationship with both parents after they’ve split up, which is why some level of shared parental access is ordered. When a child’s parent isn’t paying their court-ordered child support, and then their parent withholds access, the child is being punished twice.
The reverse, unfortunately, also happens. Sometimes a parent who is paying support will withhold that support if their ex is denying them access to their child. Maybe they always seem to be “sick” when they’re scheduled to spend time with their other parent, or the parent always seems to be late dropping them off or early picking them up. While this isn’t going to get a parent thrown in jail, if they’re violating a custody or visitation order, it is a matter for the court.
Wherever you are in these scenarios, it’s crucial to know your rights and responsibilities as well as those of your co-parent. If your co-parent is violating a court order, the solution is not to violate another one. If you’re not able to resolve the matter on your own, you need to go back to court.
Keep in mind that if the issue involves a true inability to meet your child support requirements (maybe due to a job loss), you need to present your case and seek a modification. Having sound legal guidance can help you look out for the best interests of your child.