Whether you share custody of your child with your co-parent or you have primary custody, and they still have visitation rights, you may depend on your ex to pay their court-ordered child support in full and on time. Unfortunately, they can be unreliable in making those payments.
Regardless of whether inconsistent payment is because they’re irresponsible and disorganized regarding their finances or are being passive-aggressive about not paying because they think the amount is unfair, it’s frustrating. Still, they show up at the scheduled time to take your child for the day, weekend, or their scheduled parenting time.
Can you simply refuse to let them see their child until they pay up? You can’t (legally) do that. Here’s why.
Financial support is a parent’s responsibility
Parents do not pay child support to get access to their children. Child support is ordered (or often negotiated by co-parents and approved by a judge) because parents should provide financially for their children. The amount is whatever degree is deemed appropriate for the care of the child or children.
Withholding access punishes the child
Cutting them off from the kids is tempting, particularly since the parent being denied access can’t stop paying child support. Still, one parent refusing to allow the other to see their children or making excuses for them not being available actually harms the child more than anyone else.
You may need to return to court
You can see why child support and parenting time can’t be dependent on one another. If there’s a problem with a parent not abiding by a court order – either the support or the custody and visitation order – they need to work that out. If they can afford it and aren’t paying, the state has means of forcibly collecting it. It is a situation that may well involve some legal intervention or a return to court.
Sometimes things change. If a parent was laid off or endures difficult economic times and can’t afford their ordered child support, they can seek a modification if the issue was not a problem they created.
There are two sides to every story; if there is a dispute over support, it’s best to seek legal guidance before you do anything rash or harmful.