How to Enforce Your Rights as a Non-Custodial Parent
The Legal Consequences of Withholding Visitation for Unpaid Child Support
Child custody, support, and visitation are the most important problems in any divorce.
That’s why child support agreements are established to ensure the well-being of the child. However, things get complicated when the non-custodial parent fails to pay child support and the custodial parent decides to withhold visitation for that reason.
The Legal Basis of Child Support and Visitation
Let’s talk about the legal principles and statutes governing child support and visitation in the US:
- State Guidelines: States define guidelines for deciding the amount of child support based on parents’ incomes and other relevant factors.
- UIFSA: This federal law helps enforce and modify child support orders across states.
- Child Support Enforcement: The federal government oversees state efforts to enforce child support through measures like income withholding and license suspension.
- Modifications: Child support orders can be changed if there’s a big change in circumstances, like income or custody.
Visitation (Parenting Time):
- The Child’s Safety: The concerned child’s safety is a major concern for courts giving out visitation orders.
- UCCJEA: This law helps determine which state’s court handles custody and visitation when parents live in different states.
- Parenting Plans: Many states require parents to create plans outlining visitation schedules, holidays, etc.
- Enforcement: Courts have ways to enforce visitation orders if a parent doesn’t comply.
- Modification: Visitation orders can be changed if it is in the child’s best interests.
- Supervised Visitation: In some cases, supervised visits are ordered for safety.
The Common Reasons for Withholding Visitation
According to the US Census Bureau, there were 12.9 million custodial parents in the US in 2018. That means that about 30% of all children are living with custodial parents. Many custodial parents may withhold visitation rights. There can be many reasons for that including:
Conflict and Resentment
Ongoing conflict or unresolved resentment between ex-spouses can lead to visitation interference. One parent may use visitation as a way to exert control or seek revenge.
In some cases, a parent may withhold visitation due to genuine safety concerns for the child. This might involve allegations of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse by the other parent.
Lack of Communication
Poor communication between co-parents can result in misunderstandings or disagreements about visitation schedules. This breakdown in communication can lead to visitation interference.
Feeling Insecure About the Child
Some custodial parents fear that their children might be harmed during visitation by the non-custodial parent. Such fear and insecurities can cause them to avoid or withhold visitation.
Influence of New Relationships
The involvement of new partners or stepfamilies can complicate visitation dynamics. A parent may withhold visitation due to conflicts or insecurities related to these new relationships.
Enforcing Unpaid Child Support
The custodial parent might try to make the other parent pay support by withholding visitation. That is usually one of the biggest motivations behind making efforts to withhold visitation.
Alienation or Manipulation
If a custodial parent wants a child to be alienated from the non-custodial parent, they would use this as a tactic to manipulate the relationship between them. That can be a driver of efforts to prevent them from meeting the other parent.
Remember that custodial parents can be sued for withholding visitation. It’s illegal even if it’s done to procure child support.
The non-custodial parent should approach authorities with the issue and get legal help as soon as possible.
The Legal Consequences of Withholding Visitation
Depending upon the jurisdiction you’re located in, withholding visitation can bring you face-to-face with all kinds of legal actions.
Contempt of Court
Since withholding visitation is something parents do against a court’s orders, it is considered contempt. They can be fined for that and even imprisoned.
Modification of Custody or Visitation Orders
The custodial parent who withholds visitation may risk the court modifying the custody or visitation arrangement. Courts may interpret visitation interference as detrimental to the child’s best interests and may adjust custody or visitation accordingly.
Courts may order the parent who interfered with visitation to provide make-up visitation time to compensate for the lost visitation periods. This can inconvenience the interfering parent and emphasize the importance of adhering to visitation orders.
Loss of Legal Rights
Repeated and deliberate interference with visitation can weaken the interfering parent’s legal position in future custody or visitation disputes. The court may view such behavior negatively when making future decisions.
Payment of Legal Fees:
The parent who withheld visitation may be required to pay the legal fees of the other parent incurred to enforce visitation rights or resolve the dispute in court.
In some cases, the parent whose visitation rights were violated may choose to pursue a civil lawsuit against the interfering parent for interference with the parent-child relationship, emotional distress, or related claims.
The Legal Remedies for Enforcing Visitation Rights
You would need these legal remedies to ensure that you can spend time with your child as ordered by the court.
Filing a Contempt of Court Motion
If the custodial parent consistently refuses to allow visitation, you can file a motion with the court for contempt of court. Since they are violating court orders by doing that, they can be charged with contempt of court.
Seeking a Modification of the Visitation Order
If the existing visitation schedule isn’t working and the custodial parent isn’t complying, you can request a modification of the visitation order. This may involve adjusting the schedule or specifying enforcement mechanisms.
Filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
If you file a petition for a writ of Habeas Corpus, you can force the custodial parent to produce the child in court. You can regain visitation rights that way.
Requesting Make-Up Visitation
Courts can order make-up visitation to compensate for missed visitation periods due to interference by the custodial parent.
Mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution
Engaging in mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods can help facilitate communication between both parents and resolve visitation disputes amicably.
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Furthermore, here are a few tips on legally enforcing visitation. They will help you be prepared for the lawsuit.
Maintain a record of missed visitations, communication with the custodial parent, and any incidents related to visitation interference.
Consult with an Attorney
Seek legal counsel from a family law attorney experienced in visitation issues.
Attempt to communicate calmly and constructively with the custodial parent.
Mediation can be a less adversarial way to address visitation disputes.
Comply with Court Orders
Always comply with court orders and visitation schedules.
Keep Your Child Out of Conflicts
Shield your child from conflicts between you and the custodial parent.
How Legal Experts Can Help With Parents Withholding Visitation Due to Child Support?
You can get various services from a lawyer who specializes in child support, custody, and visitation issues.
Legal experts can assess the situation and determine if the visitation interference is related to child support issues or any other reason.
Enforcement of Court Orders
Attorneys can help enforce existing court orders by filing motions for contempt of court if the custodial parent is violating visitation orders due to unpaid child support.
Modification of Court Orders
Court orders can be modified with the help of experienced lawyers. You can modify both child support and visitation orders if circumstances change.
Mediation in Out-of-court Settlements
90% of custody cases are solved outside of the court. Attorneys can engage in negotiations with the custodial parent or their legal representation.
Documentation and Evidence
Legal experts can help you gather and organize evidence, such as proof of missed visitations, communication records with the custodial parent, and financial documentation related to child support payments.
Legal Yogi can give you the support you need to enforce visitation and stay in touch with your kids. We can get you in touch with multiple lawyers who are expert in solving these problems specifically.
What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?
Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important decisions for the child. With physical custody, a parent can keep the child with them.
What is the difference between child support and visitation?
Child support is the amount paid by a non-custodial parent to contribute to a child’s life. Visitation is their right to meet the child from time to time.
How can I prove that the other parent is withholding visitation from me?
To prove a parent is withholding visitation, document instances of denied or obstructed access to the child.
How can I protect my child from the negative effects of withholding visitation?
The best way is to communicate with your child in any way possible while you can’t visit them.