It’s hard to be on friendly terms in a divorce situation. It becomes even harder when the support your child needs is delinquent. But what do you do when support is delinquent or consistently late and the child’s non-custodial parent still wants visitation that was allowed by the court? What are your rights if your ex isn’t living up to the support arrangements? Can you withhold visitation until the money owed is paid?
Delinquent child support obligations were estimated at $113 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that number is rising. Sadly, this is no consolation to the families who are struggling to make ends meet without the money owed to them.
Before getting into what you can do legally about the delinquent support and visitation, know that your child probably desires to see that parent regardless of the money situation between the two of you.
Now let’s talk about your legal options.
What Are My Rights When It Comes to Withholding Visitation Because of Delinquent Support?
Financial child support and being able to see your child are considered two distinct areas of the law. One does not yield or cause the other. Visitation is not a “pay-to-play” arrangement. It is not contingent on the non-custodial parent paying for the right to visit. Assuming there are no legal reasons otherwise such as issues with the law or abuse, the non-custodial parent has a right to see the child.
But the reverse is true as well. Your ex cannot refuse to pay support if you were blocking access to the child.
In both of these cases, the court has ordered child support to be paid and access/visitation to be granted. To deny either is unlawful because it is a direct violation of your court order.
What Can I Do If My Ex Won’t Pay Child Support?
Keep the Ex Involved
It’s hard to do, but continuing visitation is the right thing to do legally and it will help your ex maintain the relationship s/he has with your child. This is not only good for the child/parent relationship but it also helps your ex stay invested with your child. With that being the case, hopefully, when your ex is able to pay s/he will.
Leave that Money Out of the Equation
This advice is purely given for your own peace of mind. You don’t want to take on rent you can’t afford because you factored in child support. Yes, that money is owed to you by law. Yes, the law can garnish wages and tax refunds to get it, but you will have a lot less anxiety if you do your budgeting without the child support factored in if your ex seems to go long periods without paying.
Recognize Whether This Is Temporary
Remove the emotion from the situation. (It is incredibly frustrating when your ex is breaking the court order.) Step back and decide whether your ex is just in between jobs or always in between jobs. This answer can help you figure out your next course of action. If this is merely “bad luck,” if your ex held a job up until recently, you may want to be patient or request partial payments. If on the other hand, this seems to be an ongoing thing, it may be time to take action.
If this failure to pay has been going on for at least six months, it’s most likely time to act. Contact Clearwater Divorce and Family Law Attorney Dean Tsourakis to talk about your options.on Feb 22, 2017