Relationship of Child Support to Visitation
This title is a misnomer: there is no relationship between child support and visitation. The two concepts exist independently under state law.
Child Support – Right of Custodial Parent to Receive Payment from Non-Custodial Parent
Payment of child support is not about earning the right to visitation and relationship. Child support is not discounted based on time a child spends visiting the other parent. Support is adjusted only by court order and is based upon a change in custody or movement to a shared parenting plan, but not a variation in visitation.
Recognize that there could be legitimate reasons for the lapse in support, such as job loss, major illness, or work injury. There are situations where a non-custodial parent chooses not to have a relationship with a child, and that does not excuse the responsibility to pay support.
Visitation – Right of Child to Spend Time with Non-Custodial Parent
Visitation is not a right of parents; instead, visitation is the right of the child to enjoy a relationship with both parents. Visitation is the right of the child to enjoy time spent with the non-custodial parent in a relationship supported by the custodial parent. It is unfair to trade the rights for one another when the holder of the visitation right differs from the holder of the right to receive support.
It is unlawful and imprudent for a custodial parent to withhold visitation from a non-custodial parent because of unpaid support. Afterall, a child deserves a relationship with her parent regardless of monies paid for her support. By denying visitation to the other parent, the custodial parent harms the child much more than mere deprivation of funds.
It is important not to overlook legal avenues available for pursuing payment of child support. Local child support enforcement agencies assist with collection efforts. They have the power to garnish wages, withhold tax refunds, take unemployment compensation, withhold passports, and jail offenders in some circumstances. There are also private companies that assist with collection of child support in exchange for a percentage of the amount collected.
With these remedies, it is imprudent, unlawful, and unnecessary for a custodial parent to take the law into his or her own hands and fashion some sort of self-help legal remedy by withholding visitation in exchange for payment of support. Some courts even take such actions into consideration in determinations for future custody requests, and renegade self-help measures can come back to hurt the frustrated parent.
There is only one appropriate reason to withhold visitation from a parent, and that is when there is a risk of danger or harm to the child. Barring such a situation, visitation and support must exist in two separate realms, operating independently of one another.