"If your ex-spouse interferes with your visitation, are you entitled to withhold child support until you receive your court-ordered visitation?"
No. Your obligation to pay child support is not dependent on your ability to exercise your possession and access to your children any more than your right to visit with your children is dependent on your payment of child support. If your ex-spouse interferes with your visitation, your best and only recourse would be to file a motion to enforce visitation. The court will set a hearing in which you will tell the judge how your ex has interfered with your right to visit with your children. After hearing your story, the judge can punish your ex for violating the court order in several ways. He or she could hold your ex in contempt for violating the court's order and sentence him or her to jail. The judge could also punish your ex by ordering a money judgment. In addition, if the court finds that your ex violated the order, Texas law requires that your ex pay your attorney's fees and costs of bringing the enforcement action.
If your ex continues to interfere with your visitation with your children, you may have a case of parental alienation. After proving to the court that your ex is interfering with the relationship between you and your children, the court could find this alienation to be grounds for changing the custody of the children from your ex to you.
On the other hand, if you attempt to punish your ex for refusing to let you visit with your children at the times designated in your court order, you will be the one held in contempt for violating a court order -- and facing possible jail time as punishment.
Further, the child support is not for the benefit of your ex, it is for the benefit of your children. If your children don't receive child support, you're punishing them for something your ex is doing. Putting the children in the middle of a conflict between you and your ex-spouse is never in their best interests.
Anita K. Cutrer is a partner with Denton, Hoppes & Cutrer in Bedford. She was named as one of the Top Attorneys in Family Law for 2002 in Fort Worth, Texas magazine.
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
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