A court entering child visitation and child support orders as part of a divorce or paternity proceeding does so with the expectation that the parents will adhere to the visitation and support orders it enters. While some divorced parents are able to set aside their differences and past conflicts in order to effectively parent their children, other divorced parents use child support and visitation as means by which they can attack or inflict pain on the other person. Oftentimes, the parent who is mistreated or who has his or her rights infringed upon looks for a way to retaliate, which only worsens the overall situation.
If you are the nonresidential parent (i.e., your child does not live primarily with you) and the residential parent withholds visitation, you may feel as if you have few options available to you. What can you do in this situation?
The Bad News for Nonresidential Parents: You Cannot Legally Withhold Child Support Payments if You are Denied Visitation
Unfortunately for nonresidential parents, the law does not make your obligation to pay child support dependent on your ability to see your child. If you are determined to be a parent to a particular child, this determination comes with the obligation to support the child financially. Until such time as those parental rights may be permanently severed, your obligation to support your child will continue. This rule makes sense: your child continues to need food, shelter, clothing and medical care regardless of whether you are able to exercise your visitation rights. Withholding child support payments harms the child (in theory, at least).
In other words, you are not legally entitled to stop making child support payments if the other parent is prohibiting you from having visitation with the child. Arrearages will continue to accrue and you can even be found to be in contempt of court. The denial of visitation will not be accepted by the court as a defense in such a proceeding.
The Bad News for Residential Parents: You Cannot Legally Deny Visitation to the Other Parent if He/She Does Not Pay Child Support
In a similar vein, a residential parent cannot deny visitation to the nonresidential parent simply because the nonresidential parent is not paying child support. That parent’s right to see his or her child and develop a meaningful relationship with the child is a right that exists independent of the duty to support that child. If you deny visitation to the him or her because the he or she is not paying child support or will not agree to a modification in child support, you may also be found to be in contempt of court. Your actions may also be painted by the court as an attempt to disrupt the parent’s and the child’s relationship with one another: a factor that can be considered against you if the other parent seeks to change the custody orders.
What Should Parents Do If There is a Disagreement?
One of the best actions a parent whose rights are infringed by the other parent (such as a denial of visitation or child support) is to speak with a New Jersey family law attorney and have the other parent’s actions brought to the attention of the court in a contempt proceeding. Attorney Peter J. Bronzino can advise and assist divorced parents in Ocean County, Monmouth County, and in the surrounding area take swift action against a parent who is violating the court’s orders. Contact Bronzino Law Firm today by calling (732) 812-3102 and request to schedule a free initial consultation today.