Have your friends or family told you that if your ex-partner isn’t paying court-ordered child support, you can keep them from seeing their child? If so, you wouldn’t be the first person to be under that misconception. However, it’s not true. Child support and visitation rights are two separate issues. They have been looked at separately by the court, decided individually, and one is not dependent on another. Under Ohio law, you do not have the right to withhold visitation if your ex stops paying support.
The court establishes visitation rights for the non-custodial parent with the intent to do what is in the child’s best interests. Visitation rights aren’t tied to child support. There may be times when the court awards a large amount of support, but does not feel that it is in the child’s best interest to spend time with that parent. And there may be times when a parent cannot afford to pay very much support, but is awarded equal parenting time, because the court believes that’s what is best for the child.
Valid reasons you may want to change visitation rights
There are times when it is clearly not in the child’s interest to spend time with the other parent. Issues of abuse or neglect, substance abuse, or the addition of a new partner who poses a similar danger to the children, may be valid reasons to want to halt the other parent’s visitation rights. However, because the visitation rights have been ordered by a court, they may only be altered by a court. As tempting as it may be, do not attempt to make a “deal” with the other parent, whereby you excuse them from paying support in return for their agreement not to see the children. Changes to child support and visitation rights are only legitimate and enforceable if ordered by the court. Non-payment of court ordered support is one of the factors that the court will consider in modifying parental rights and responsibilities.
If my visitation is being hindered by my ex, can I withhold support?
Two wrongs don’t make a right. You may think turnabout is fair play, but the court is not going to agree with you. This is the flip side to the first question, and the answer is the same. You should continue to pay your court-ordered support, and you must deal with the other party’s breach of the visitation order separately. If you believe you have a valid reason to stop paying child support, consult with your attorney, who can advise you if your reasons will be taken into consideration by the court to potentially alter the original order of support. It’s extremely important you work with the court to modify any order of child support. Taking matters into your own hands, or making a side deal with the other parent, is a recipe for disaster.
What are my options if my ex isn’t paying support?
The state of Ohio has a Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) whose function is to assist parties who are owed child support. If you believe you aren’t getting enough support, however, you may want to consider going back to court to have the order modified. Life happens, jobs change, day care costs increase…. there are many reasons why a support order that was issued 5 years ago may need to be revisited now.
Don’t go it alone
If you’re having difficulties with court-ordered child support or visitation, your first step should be consulting with a family law attorney, who is an expert in these matters. He or she can advise you on the validity of your argument and give you some guidance about how the court may view it. Armed with this knowledge, you can then make an informed decision about whether it’s worth going back to court over these issues.
If you’re struggling with child support or visitation orders, call an experienced family law attorney at Kirkland & Sommers, and let us guide you through this difficult time.