Can I Withhold Visitation if my Ex Doesn't Pay Child Support?

Imagine the scene. You're a mom with two children. Your husband left you two months ago and hasn't payed child support. He won't pay for anything, but he still wants to have time with his kids. 

Your first thought, because it's everyone's first thought, is to keep the kids from him until he pays. This makes total sense: he has the responsibility to provide for his kids; and, if he doesn't, he doesn't get the privilege of seeing his kids.

Sometimes, there's what makes sense, and then there's what's legal.

You can't, I repeat can't, withhold parent-time (i.e., visitation) from your ex because he or she won't pay child support.

Child support and visitation are two unrelated things in the law. This means if someone doesn't pay child support, you can't keep them from parent-time. It also means if someone withholds parent-time, you still owe child support. Legally, one does not depend on the other.

Beyond the legal reasons, there are also some practical reasons why you shouldn't withhold parent-time:

1. You would be using your kids as pawns in a battle between you and your ex.

That's not fair or good for your kids, and it will damage them.

2. You don't want to screw up your custody case when you divorce or file for child custody.

Judges hate it when people withhold kids to get child support out of their ex. And I mean hate it. If you are the one taking care of the kids, and your ex isn't paying child support, you have the moral high ground when you divorce and ask for custody. Don't give up that high ground. It's not worth it in the end.

3. It leads to an ever-escalating fight.

If you refuse to give the kids, your ex will find new and creative ways to make your life hell. You'll then retaliate, and so will your ex. It will keep getting worse and worse. 

Please, don't withhold parent-time

Just don't refuse parent-time. There are other, much more productive, ways to address the problem of your ex not paying child support.

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