In the eyes of the law, child support and visitation rights are two separate issues. Parents have a legal responsibility to support their offspring and the Court will grant the noncustodial parent visitation rights if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child or children to do so. Visitation should be considered a privilege, not an absolute right on the part of the noncustodial parent.
An Overview of Child Support and Visitation Rights
Since these are two separate issues, the noncustodial parent should not be denied the right to see the children where visitation has been ordered by the Court, whether the child support payments are being made or not. Refusing to pay child support unless or until the noncustodial parent is granted visitation can have severe legal consequences.
Changing a Child Support Order
If the noncustodial parent has experienced significant changes to his or her financial circumstances, such as losing a job or becoming disabled as the result of an injury or medical condition, then he or she needs to file a motion with the Court to have the current child support order changed. Until the Court issues a new child support order, the terms for paying child support remain the same.
The noncustodial parent should continue making payments until the matter has been heard by a judge.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support as Ordered
A noncustodial parent who does not make child support payments may be subject to any of the following consequences:
- Revocation of driver's license
- Denial of professional license
- Referral of the matter to a collection agency
- Seizure of income tax refund
- Denial of state grants or loans
- Denial of passport application
In addition, interest will be charged on any unpaid child support payments.
Negotiating Child Visitation Rights
The Court may order "reasonable visitation" for the noncustodial parent. In this situation, the parents are expected to work out what the word "reasonable" means for them. Unfortunately, if the noncustodial parent wants to enforce visitation rights, this type of wording really doesn't give a lawyer anything to work with. What is considered reasonable may be a matter of opinion, and it is certainly open to interpretation in many ways.
It may be a better course of action to have exact wording in a visitation agreement indicating a specific drop off and pickup time for the children. Exact wording in a visitation agreement means that the expectations are clearly set out and each party knows what is expected.
Enforcing Visitation Rights
If the noncustodial parent's visitation rights are being interfered with and there is a court order with specific provisions for visitation, the noncustodial parent can contact the police for assistance. A police report needs to be filed in this instance. If the other parent is in violation of a court order, by not releasing the child or children to the noncustodial parent, this could be considered a form of parental kidnapping.After the police report has been filed, a motion should be brought before a judge to have the custodial parent declared in contempt of court. This should be done as soon as possible, otherwise the judge may conclude that the noncustodial parent is not serious about having visitation rights enforced.
If the noncustodial parent refuses to return the child or children to the custodial parent following a scheduled visit, then that is also technically considered parental kidnapping.
Child support and visitation rights are separate, but related, issues. If there are disputes over one issue, it's not a good idea to take it out on the other parent by either denying visitation or stopping child support payments. A much better approach is to contact an attorney to resolve these issues with the assistance of the Court.