"Every month my ex is late with his child support payment. Should I withhold visitation from him until he smartens up?"
The short answer is "never." You have heard the saying "Two wrongs do not make a right." That saying perfectly describes this situation in Family Law. It is always a bad idea to tie a child’s visitation with a parent to child support or property divisions.
If a Court is asked to determine if a change in custody or visitation is necessary, courts will look at which parent is best able to share the child in determining the best interests of the child. A parent who punishes a child by not allowing the child to visit with the other parent in response to a failure to pay child support, could see their time reduced. In child custody litigation, it is clear that the parent who is best able to share a child’s time is going to be in a stronger position in litigating the issues of child custody and visitation than the parent who is unwilling to share.
Additionally, by failing to comply with the Court order, you could find yourself in contempt of court. While judges try not to throw parents in jail, jail is one possible punishment that a court could dole out for the failure to comply with the court’s visitation orders.
The courts and the Legislature dislike parents who fail to pay child support. The California Family Code is filled with strong methods for the collection of child support, and the failure to pay child support carries with it stiff financial penalties. In addition, judges can throw a parent in jail for failing to pay child support.
Withholding visitation could have severe psychological consequences on a child. In light of the fact that there are legal methods available for collecting child support, it is never a good idea to withhold visitation when a parent fails to make their child support payments.
Steven A. Mindel has been certified as a Family Law Specialist since 1998 and heads the business and transactional department of Los Angeles firm Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt and Kline. He serves as a Judge Pro Tem for the Los Angeles Superior Court, Family Law Division and is the Family Law expert for CouplesCompany.com.