When a couple divorces or separates after having children, it is typical for one parent to have residential custody—the child’s home base, so to speak– and the other to have his or her own parenting time. The noncustodial parent typically pays child support for the benefit of the child.
Sometimes the custodial parent does not allow the non-custodial parent to have the court-ordered parenting time. There can be many reasons for this – perhaps the custodial parent disapproves of how the ex disciplines the child or supervises homework, or perhaps the custodial parent is jealous of the ex’s new romantic partner. On occasion, the non-custodial parent will be in arrears in payment of child support or not paying support at all, and the custodial parent withholds parenting time as punishment.
A custodial parent may be struggling financially if child support is not paid. Non-payment of support does affect the child’s standard of living. However, withholding visitation is not a remedy acceptable to the courts. There are judicial and administrative enforcement remedies available to collect child support, and the custodial parent should pursue those remedies, not deny visitation to the other parent.
If a non-custodial parent files a motion with the court to enforce parenting time, the judge quickly determines if parenting time is being denied because child support has not been paid.
The judge will let both parents know that a parent has a right to have parenting time with his or her child, regardless of the status of child support payments, and that a parent has a responsibility to support his or her child, regardless of visitation conflicts. The concepts are independent – one has an obligation to pay child support, even if visitation is denied, and he or she also has the right to be a parent and have visitation even if he or she is in arrears on child support.
Courts or agencies can and do enforce support orders. Denying parenting time to an ex who is in arrears is not an acceptable remedy.
Richard Ralls of Ralls Law Firm can assist you in your parenting or support matter. Call us at 913.236.7260 or 816.421.4222. Licensed in Kansas and Missouri.