It can be difficult to deal with a non-custodial parent who constantly falls behind with child support payments. Many custodial parents lash out by withholding child visitation. Though this may provide some level of satisfaction, it is not recommended. Visitation rights and child support are not related and failure to adhere to the visitation agreement can put a custodial parent in hot water.
Paying child support does not “earn” a non-custodial parent the right to visit with the child. In fact, visitation is technically not the right of a parent. It is the right of a child to maintain relationships with both parents. Withholding visitation from a non-custodial parent who is in arrears with child support is unwise and against the law. Custodial parents should realize that by withholding visitation they are harming their children much more than the lack of funds is harming them.
Non-custodial parents fall behind on child support payments for many reasons and some of them are legitimate. A parent may be forced to take unpaid leave due to a workplace injury. The adult may be grappling with a major illness that involves expensive medical treatments. Or, the parent may have recently lost a job. Custodial parents should ask why child support is lapsing and take legal action to enforce or modify payments.
Local child support enforcement agencies can help custodial parents collect past-due child support. They are authorized to garnish wages, take unemployment compensation, and withhold tax refunds. In some circumstances, they can have non-custodial parents thrown in jail for failure to pay child support. Custodial parents should rely on these agencies and if they can afford it, assistance from an attorney, to recoup child support arrears.
By ignoring this assistance and instead taking matters into their own hands, custodial parents put their continued custody at risk. Some courts consider infringement of visitation rights when deciding on future requests for custody from non-custodial parents. What a custodial parent views as effort to help themselves can end up putting them on the receiving end of child visitation while the other parent enjoys custody.
The only reason to withhold visitation from a non-custodial parent is when the child is at risk of harm or danger. Other than that, child visitation and support should remain separate considerations as they are under the law. Consulting with an attorney will clarify this issue and help custodial parents pursue past-due child support the right way.