“If your spouse interferes with your visitation, are you entitled to withhold child support until you receive court-ordered visitation?”
These can be emotional questions for a family. “Why should I pay my child support if she won’t let me see my children?” “Why should I let him visit with the children if he doesn’t pay his child support?” If a parent is not paying child support, there are procedures for enforcement that allow that order to be enforced. In the meantime, the child should not be denied his or her right to see their non-custodial parent. Similarly, if a parent is paying child support but is being denied access, the proper course is to return to the court and ask for an order enforcing the access entitlement. Meanwhile, the parent with custody should not be denied the support necessary to run the household in which the child resides. In either case, the focus should always remain on meeting that child’s interests, even though the parents may be in conflict.
Enforcement of access rights is notoriously expensive and sometimes ineffective. In cases of serious, ongoing access denial, and where there is no apparent alternative, the courts have turned to making orders that suspend child support until the access is reinstated. These cases, however, are unusual. In the vast majority of cases of denied access or unpaid child support, judges do not wish to see parents linking the payment of money and time with the child.
Michael Cochrane is a lawyer with Ricketts Harris LLP. He is the author of several books on family law, including Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law and For Better or For Worse: The Canadian Guide to Marriage Contracts and Cohabitation Agreements. He can be reached at (416) 364-6211.