Are child support and visitation linked to each other? Can visitation rights be withheld for late child support payments? Can support payments be lowered according to how much time the kids spend with the non-custodial parent? These are just a few of the questions divorced parents ask. The article below explains why visitation and child support are not dependent on each other.
by Brette Sember, J.D.
For most divorced families, custody and visitation were set up simultaneously with child support. Because these things all have to do with your child and where he or she lives, they are intertwined in your mind. Somehow, you see them all as part of a package. But these two things should not be seen as dependent on each other or related.
The truth is that the time your child spends with both of you has nothing to do with child support. Custody is only the preliminary factor in setting up child support. The non-custodial parent must pay it to the custodial parent. But beyond that, what happens with your parenting plan has no impact on child support.
It's not uncommon for a parent to believe that the amount of child support should somehow be adjusted depending on how much time the child spends with the non-custodial parent. After all, they reason, when the child is with the non-custodial parent, that parent is responsible for meeting all of the child's needs. Therefore, if the child spends an entire week during the summer with the non-custodial parent, no child support should be owed for that week. Wrong! It makes no difference if the child spends one day or 7 days a week with the other parent, child support is not affected.
Child support is a fixed amount which only can be changed by a court order. How much time each parent spends with the child doesn't affect it, unless there is a complete change in the custody arrangements, or if a shared parenting plan is implemented where the child spends equal time with each parent.
Other expenses, such as educational and shared medical expenses, are also not affected by the parenting schedule unless the court orders a modification. If the non-custodial parent if responsible for medical expenses, you should be reimbursed even if you take your child to the doctor.
Another important point to remember is that a custodial parent can't refuse or cut back on visitation if child support hasn't been paid. Sometimes custodial parents feel as if this is an effective way of getting the other parent to pay. It can definitely feel unfair to watch the other parent get to be the fun parent in your child's eyes while he or she continues to shirk financial responsibilities.
It can be tempting to use visitation time as a weapon since you know it is something that is important to the other parent and is something that you can easily control. But your child needs time with the other parent as well as financial support from him or her. Stopping one to get the other isn't fair to your child. Nonpayment of child support has to be dealt with through the courts and even if the other parent is a complete deadbeat in terms of financial support, he or she still has an important role in your child's life and should not be prevented from filling it.
It can be hard to keep parenting issues and money matters separate, but doing so will allow you to prevent financial problems from interfering with your relationships with your child.
To help you keep track of the child support and visitation frequency, you might consider using a parenting plan calendar service. It makes it easy to keep track of and organize all the important information concerning your children.
Also, if you're having problems collecting child support, and the child support enforcement agency isn't getting any results, you might consider using an independent support collection agency. Instead of charging a fee for their services, they generally earn a percentage of the actual child support that gets collected.
The articles below offer additional information relating to child support and visitation issues.