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Can I withhold visitation if my ex isn’t paying child support?

If you have sole custody of your children, or often even if you have joint custody, you probably depend upon your ex-spouse’s child support payments to meet the needs of your children. You probably perceive it as unfair to the children that your ex isn’t diligent in providing these payments for them. It can be tempting to try to pressure your ex into paying by withholding visitation. But there are a few reasons why you should think twice before doing that.

Child support obligations and visitation

Child support obligations are completely separate from visitation, meaning that one has no effect on the other. The reason for this is because child support is your children’s right – they have the right to receive the support they need from both parents. Visitation, on the other hand, is your ex-spouse’s right.

In other words, if your ex-spouse is behind on child support payments, you cannot legally prevent them from having visitation time with your children as punishment. Even if your ex has explicitly said to you that they don’t intend to pay, or if they’ve taken steps to try to evade that responsibility dishonestly, they still have a right to visit their children.

This does not mean that your ex can get away with failure to pay support without consequences. They will likely face court sanctions and maybe even criminal charges if they fail to pay for long enough. But until the court modifies your custody arrangement, your ex will always have the right to their share of time with your children.

Consequences of interfering with visitation

The number one priority of divorce courts in Florida is the well-being of the child. Divorce judges understand that, unless there is a history of abuse or other dangerous circumstances, children do best when they have an active relationship with both parents.

Thus, courts take what they perceive as attempts to interfere with the parent-child relationship of one parent by the other very seriously. If you do anything that your ex-spouse can allege is an attempt to deprive them of their visitation rights – and to deprive your children of their relationship with their other parent – you could face court sanctions and possibly even a modification of your custody order.

Divorces are often messy, and no one suffers more than the children. Hopefully, if your ex is not providing you with the support payments they owe, you can resolve the process through the proper legal channels in place, so that you can make sure your children have their needs met.