The short and simple answer is no. The right to time with the children is an independent right from their need for child support or other financial assistance. Similarly, a child’s need to have their financial needs met, the duty of support we have as parents, is independent from the other parent’s choice to prevent or deny visitation or parenting time.
Many parents who are frustrated by the actions of the other parent want to look for a way that they can “get even” with their belief that the other parent has been unfair or unreasonable with them, however, this is not the best course of action. By trying to retribute against wrongful behavior all you do is get into the category of “both being wrong.” When parents have conflict, sometimes they wrongfully use the children as pawns to try to upset or get even with the other parent. This could include a series of efforts that can seem legitimate at first glance, but when taken over a period of time, are actually an intentional pattern of conduct to deny parenting time. Often these efforts can include things such as social events or engagements for the children, alleging the children are sick, that out of town trips are scheduled over the other parent’s parenting time, among other issues/concerns. After a period of time when the noncustodial parent realizes that the other parent is making consistent efforts to keep him or her from exercising their court ordered parenting time, it is common for the parent paying child support to try to even the playing field by stopping their child support payments. Is this a reasonable or wise response?
Child Custody and Child Support Are Entirely Separate
Given that child support calculations in both, Kansas and Missouri include a consideration for how much time a parent spends with their children and/or the overnights that a parent spends, it is a common misperception that if the parent is not getting their court ordered time, and they are prevented from seeing their children, that they should not have to proceed with paying child support. However, the two issues are separate matters.
Even if you are not getting an opportunity to see your children, which is unlawful, you cannot try to make the situation right by stopping your child support payments. If you do not pay child support, the support obligation continues to accrue. Support generally cannot be reduced or eliminated simply due to the other parent keeping your children from you. While there is a remedy for this in the statutes, generally, as child support helps provide a consistent, stable lifestyle for the children, the court does not “punish” your children by forgiving non-payment of support because children still need to eat, have shelter, clothing and other necessities.
If you stop paying your child support, the support enforcement agencies can initiate child support enforcement proceedings against you. They tend to be fairly aggressive in making sure that parents pay their court ordered child support. This can include any of the following (or other actions beyond these);
- Garnishing your wages;
- Requiring you to appear at monthly “punishment” hearings to account for payment of support;
- Participating in programs or classes;
- Driver’s license suspension;
- Suspension of professional licenses, gaming, hunting or other licenses;
- Bank levies against your bank account;
- Placing liens on your assets or property;
- Reporting your delinquency to the credit reporting agencies;
- Intercepting tax refunds;
- Intercepting gambling or lottery winnings;
- Contempt of court including fines or jail time if serious enough;
If you are being denied your parenting time, you need to continue paying your support in a timely fashion. That allows you to come to the court with “clean hands” showing that you are being appropriate and doing everything asked of you. Do not ignore the harm your former spouse or other parent is doing to your parenting relationship with the children, though. You need to get the issues of denial of parenting time before the court through a contempt or family access motion. If you are able to prove in court that the other parent has denied your parenting time or is trying to damage or alienate your relationship with your children, the court will address this behavior. In the most serious cases where a parent is denying parenting time/alienating the children, the court enacts the remedy of transferring custody. In such situation, you will have a better case for this request if you can show the court that you have continually acted in the best interests of the children by continuing to meet your support and other obligations- in spite of the other party’s failures.
On the other hand, if a parent is not paying court ordered child support, you cannot deny that parent the opportunity to see their children. Unless or until a court has ordered otherwise, parents have a right to have a relationship with their children. This includes parents who have failed to make child support payments. As outlined above, there are various remedies that you can seek and the court can order for failure to pay child support, but you cannot prevent your children from seeing their other parent as their relationship with both parents is their right.
Courts take parental rights and the ability to have parenting time seriously. Parents’ rights and responsibilities for their children do not change because the parents’ relationship has changed. Courts will work extensively to ensure that the best interests of the children are honored and in almost every situation, that will include some form of contact with the children by both parents.
If the other parent is not paying child support, our office can help you institute enforcement proceedings. This means that we can bring these issues before the court to order/require the other parent to comply with the order of the court regarding payment of their child support obligation. Once a parent is in enforcement proceedings, it is difficult to get out of them until the support is caught up and paid in full. As outlined above, there are significant things that the courts can do to address non-payment of support, some of which can interfere with your ability to continue to work or travel or do the things you want to do. Simply put, child support needs to be paid.
If you are not able to afford your child support payments because your circumstances have changed, rather than stopping payment, you can ask the court to modify the amount. This requires you to produce evidence of your change of circumstances and proof of why you are no longer able to make your court ordered child support payments. If you meet your burden of proof to the court, the court will review, recalculate and determine an appropriate child support amount.
What Should You Do?
Simply put, child custody/parenting time and child support are entirely separate issues. If you are having a problem with one of these issues, you should seek out legal advice to guide you in seeking relief from the court to address the other parent’s non-compliance. You should not take matters or problems into your own hands as you will almost always create a bigger mess that will have to be cleaned up and addressed. If we can help you sort through an issue, address child support or seek enforcement of your parental rights, please call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation.