If your child’s other parent is behind on child support payments, you’re not alone.
Being on the receiving end of unpaid child support can be frustrating and may leave a parent desperate for immediate financial relief. In an attempt to pressure the non-custodial parent into paying, many custodial parents might be tempted to withhold visitation.
It’s easy to see why this might be appealing. After all, if the non-custodial parent isn’t able to spend time with their child, then they might be motivated to make timely payments. However, withholding visitation isn’t the best course of action and can often do more harm than good.
Why withholding visitation rights isn't the answer
All parents have a responsibility to help support their children financially, and the child support payor should be held accountable if they don’t fulfill their obligations. That being said, withholding visitation isn’t the right way to go about this.
For one, matters involving child support, custody, and visitation are tightly regulated by the family court system, with the exact terms of each arrangement laid out in legally binding court orders.
Although it might be tempting to take matters into your own hands by withholding visitation from your child’s other parent, doing so could be a violation of those orders. Interfering with a court-ordered visitation schedule is just as much a violation of the law as not paying court-ordered child support and can put you at risk of facing serious legal consequences.
More importantly, withholding visitation rights can have a detrimental effect on your child’s emotional well-being. Children benefit from having a relationship with both parents as much as possible, and withholding visitation rights — especially for an entirely separate matter like child support — could damage this bond. In some cases, the child may even blame themselves for the other parent’s absence, leading to feelings of guilt, confusion, and insecurity.
How to pursue unpaid child support
Fortunately, the legal system in Arizona has a number of tools available to help custodial parents collect unpaid child support. These options aren’t always perfect, but they can be a more effective way to resolve the issue without sacrificing your child’s relationship with their other parent or violating other court orders.
Be sure to document all instances of missed or incomplete child support payments. As soon as your payments are 30 days overdue, you should alert the court by filing a motion of contempt. The court will then issue a summons to the non-custodial parent requiring them to appear in court. If the non-custodial parent fails to comply with this summons, they could be found in contempt of court and face a range of possible consequences, including jail time and fines.
If the non-custodial parent does appear in court, they’ll be given the chance to explain why their child support payments are late. If the parent can prove financial hardship due to an involuntary change in circumstances, such as a job loss or illness, the court may take this into account and modify the child support order accordingly.
On the other hand, if the court finds that the non-custodial parent is capable of making timely payments, it may impose harsher penalties, such as wage garnishment, to ensure that the parent follows through on their obligations in the future. In some cases, the court may also attempt to recover past-due payments by seizing bank accounts, placing liens on property, or withholding tax refunds.
Consult a family law attorney
While it can take time and effort to recoup missed payments and get back on your feet, it’s possible to enforce your rights as a custodial parent and receive the child support to which you’re entitled. With a Tempe child support lawyer in your corner, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that the non-custodial parent fulfills their obligations without interfering with the parent-child relationship.
Let Blanchette Law PLLC be your guide through this difficult process. Call (602) 881-1748 to schedule a consultation to learn more.