Are you confused about child support and visitation? You're not alone. It's one of the most common issues when child support and visitation co-exist. Yet, the two issues are actually separate, and parents would be wise to recognize the distinctions between them. Whether you're a non-custodial parent or the primary custodian with questions about child support, visitation, and your parental rights, here are the answers you need:
Child Support and Visitation: Why the Courts See Them Separately
From the court's point of view, child support and child custody are two separate issues. To summarize it, child support is a parent's obligation regardless of his or her parenting experience or ability. Child custody determinations, on the other hand, are based on protecting the child's best interests. While multiple factors come into play, safety and consistency are generally high on the list.
Depending on the child custody laws adopted by a particular state, the courts may also highly regard the opportunity to allow the children to maintain at least as much contact with both parents as they enjoyed prior to the separation or divorce. Therefore, the courts may recommend generous visitation or even shared custody regardless of whether the parent required to pay child support is actually up-to-date on his or her payments.
This is often a shock for parents who've been waiting in vain for child support payments that have yet to arrive.
The Impact of No-Show Visitations
Here's another common point of frustration: no-show visitations. What is a parent supposed to do? Continue to set aside the time and endure painful post-no-show tantrums and breakdowns?
Unfortunately, when a non-custodial parent chooses not adhere to a court-ordered visitation schedule, the custodial parent has very few options.
- Take your ex back to court and request a revised visitation schedule
- Make an attempt to open up the lines of communication with your ex to learn why he or she is not participating in scheduled visitations
Kids and Visitation Refusal
Let's face it: no one can (or should) force a child to visit with his or her parent. However, there can be legal ramifications to upholding a child's insistence on visitation refusal. Anytime your child refuses to participate in a planned visit with your ex, you should:
- Talk with your child about why she does not want to participate in the visit
- Assure your child that you both love him or her
- Explain the concept of visitation and why it's important to spend time with both parents
- As a last resort: speak with your ex about allowing your child to take a break or shortening the length of the visit.
What if I, as the custodial a parent, want to refuse to allow my ex exercise his/her visitation rights?
The custodial parent is held to a visitation schedule ordered by the court. A parent may refuse to allow an ex to exercise his visitation rights for the following reasons:
- Fear of imminent harm, as in suspected abuse or neglect of the child
- Child does not want to visit with the non-custodial parent
Edited by Jennifer Wolf for About.com.