While divorce is often a complicated process, it becomes even more so when children are involved. Most parents wish to retain custody of their children, but often in divorce rulings, there is assigned a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. However, it is challenging to raise a family on one income, and both parents are seen as having a financial obligation to their child, so the non-custodial parent is often required to pay some form child support.
Child support obligations are meant to ensure that children of divorce don’t suffer unnecessarily because of the break-up of the family, and continue to have the best possible opportunities for success. This is a legally binding contract that both parents must abide by. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the non-custodial parent to miss some full or partial child support payments, for various reasons.
Some of the more reasonable explanations are unexpected expenses (such as a medical emergency) or a significant loss of income. On the other hand, it does happen where a non-custodial parent chooses to withhold child support payments out of retaliation towards their former spouse.
In either case, parents who are struggling to receive child support payments have several tools at their disposal.
Communication with the Other Parent
Oftentimes, divorce can end on poor terms and, because of this, divorced parents may try to talk to each other as little as possible. While this may represent an effort to keep peace and the child custody arrangement simple, it can backfire when missed child support payments come into play.
In some cases of missed child support payments, the entire situation can be defused by simply reminding the non-custodial parent of their legal duty. They may have forgotten that the payment was due, or there may be financial issues at the moment. For example, if either parent has switched banks or opened a new primary account recently, the child support payment simply needs to be rerouted.
It is entirely possible that a missed support payment is a minor issue that can easily be cleared up though some communication on the part of the parties involved.
Never Withhold Visitation Because of a Missed Child Support Payment
Some custodial parents think about withholding visitation rights as a "punishment" for missed child support payments. In many cases, they believe that this could force the other parent to hold up "their end of the deal."
However, it is important to remember that the prescribed visitation schedule issued by a family court carries the same weight of the law that support payments do. If the custodial parent denies the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent, they are also in violation of the child custody agreement and could be subject to a charge of contempt of court.
Contempt Actions – A Last Resort to Enforce Child Support
If all amicable means of collecting or enforcing a child support order on your own do not succeed, then you can ask the court to enforce it for you. Child support is court-ordered, so by approaching the court and explaining that the non-custodial parent is refusing to pay, the court will hold them in contempt.
Charges of contempt can lead to wage garnishment, fines, and other penalties, which is why enforcement through the court is effective.
Consult an Attorney Before Enforcing Child Support
However contentious a divorce may be, it is important for parents to remember that child support and visitation rights are not things that can be used as bargaining chips. These are legally binding rulings issued by a family court judge.
If you are experiencing any issues with your current child support or visitation agreements, contact the Law Offices of Frank E. Mann, P.C. immediately. We can help guide you through the "do’s and don’ts" of your current custodial situation, and work to secure the best outcome for you and your child in future family court proceedings.