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Can You Withhold Parenting Time if Your Spouse Fails to Pay Child Support?

parenting time May 04, 2017

In my family law practice a lot of people come to me, especially those who are entitled to receive child support. They want to know if they are entitled to withhold parenting time from the other parent due to non-payment of child support.

My inclination is to say No, because that is not in the child's best interest. Parenting time and child support are two separate issues. Just like if a parent is obligated by a court order to pay child support...if there is then is a court order in effect that says a parent is entitled to a certain amount of parenting time, then they are entitled to get it.

The parent may not be happy because they are not getting child support, but they still must give the other parent the parenting time according their agreement. Because if they don't, they could face the same consequences that the parent who is failing to pay child support faces.

So, there are ways to get a parent to pay child support if they are not doing it, other than withholding parenting time.

The main way is to file an enforcement action in whatever jurisdiction you are in. An enforcement action is where you tell the court, this is the order that is in effect and the person that is obligated to follow that order is not doing so, and I want the court to enforce the order. So that is one tool a person can use if they are not getting child support. (or if they are not getting parenting time for that matter)

Another tool a parent can use which is more serious is 'filing a petition in order to show cause regarding contempt of court'. In my mind contempt of court is more serious because when someone is facing a contempt of court charge, incarceration is one of the potential sanctions that they can get.

Let's face it. Nobody wants to be put in jail because they are not following a court order. But if I really want to hammer someone who has not been paying child support for years for example or is tens of thousands of dollars behind on child support, then that is what I might file.

I had a young father come to me recently and he was just devastated because his ex is using the children as a tool. She's trying to extort a large amount of child support from him and she's withholding the kids from seeing him. She is telling him that he cannot see the kids unless and until you pay me this amount of money per month. And the poor guy was kind of inclined to do it because he is desperate to see his kids because it has been a long time since he has been able to do so.

My advice to him is you should not give in to threats my the mother. There are ways to go through the court process and get the result that is in the best interest of the kid. If both parents are fit and it is in the kid's best interest, then they should be seeing both Mom and Dad.

So whether you are the Mom or the Dad, and you are not getting the parenting time or you are not getting the child support, use the tools that are available to you.