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No legal link between visitation and child support

In many cases where the parents of children get divorced or were never married and live apart, one parent will get primary custody of the children. The other parent will have designated times each month that they are legally allowed to visit their children.

Many people erroneously assume that visitation is linked to child support. However, until laws change, it is not. In some cases, this can mean that the custodial parent cannot use nonpayment of child support as the grounds for withholding visitation time from the other parent.

In many other cases, noncustodial parents who are not getting time with their children may start to wonder if they still have to pay child support. Legally, yes, they do.

Parents who are being denied visitation they are legally accorded by the custodial parent can pursue their case in court. They may even use the withholding of visitation as a good reason to pursue joint or even sole custody. However, they cannot stop paying child support, even if parenting time issues take a long time to resolve.

This dynamic might seem counterintuitive. After all, parents who are blocked from spending time with their children is going to feel disenfranchised, and will likely feel like just checking out of the picture altogether, including stopping paying for the kids they don't get to see. Though a predictable response, it is not a legal one.

The reason is very simple. If a custodial parent is withholding time with children from the other parent, that needs to be addressed. However, it doesn't change the fact that the children still need material support. Correspondingly, if one parent falls behind on payments due to their financial circumstances, that doesn't justify taking the children's time with that parent away. So, understand that child support and visitation are not legally linked, but fight to make sure that your children get their parenting time and their material needs met.

Source: The News-Gazette, "John Roska: Child support, visitation not legally linked," John Roska, May 31, 2015

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