Why You Must Pay Child Support Regardless of Visitation Rights or Restrictions
In matters of child custody, the court can decide on the custodial agreement, visitation, and child support when parents cannot reach an agreement. For child support in shared custody situations, the court decides how much is owed, with the higher-earning parent typically paying child support to the other parent. In some cases, one parent may be granted sole custody, while the other is required to pay child support.
If you have been ordered by the court to pay child support, you cannot stop paying under any circumstances. If the custodial parent restricts you from seeing your child—out of spite or other reasons—you still must make payments. However, in a case like this, you may be able to take legal action to enforce the visitation you are rightly due. An attorney can help.
It is also important to note that just because a parent has child support obligation does not mean they have a right to custody or visitation. Parents are only legally entitled to see their kids if they have a court-ordered agreement.
You cannot ignore or disobey court orders. If your visitation or custodial rights are being restricted and you have a court-ordered agreement, you can take legal action to protect your parental rights. For help, you should speak with an attorney who can either help you file to:
- modify your existing visitation or custody agreement, or
- enforce your child custody/visitation orders.
Similarly, if you have been ordered to pay child support, you must make your payments. Failure to do so can result in serious legal consequences, as we discuss below.
Penalties for Failing to Pay Child Support
If child support is not being paid on time or in full, the party owed child support can file a motion with the court to enforce payment. If it can be proven the paying party was able to pay but didn’t, they may be found in contempt of court.
In addition to the jail time and fines associated with being found in contempt, offending parties can be penalized in other ways, which include having their:
- wages docked, as the owed child support is withheld from paychecks
- tax refund withheld, as it will be used to pay the owed debts
- licenses (driver’s, professional, and/or recreational) suspended
- passport application denied or not renewed
Why You Cannot Withhold Visitation for Unpaid Child Support
If your ex fails to pay child support, you can file a complaint with the court. You cannot, however, restrict their access to your child.
While you should receive financial support from your child’s other parent, you cannot withhold visitation if it is court-ordered. In some cases, doing so could lead to kidnapping charges. However, in most cases, a parent who is restricting visitation will be found in contempt of court, which is punishable by jail time and mandatory community service. Additionally, it may be grounds for altering the current custodial or visitation agreement.
According to California Civil Code of Procedure § 1218, those found in contempt will face the following penalties for each act of contempt:
- For the first finding of contempt, up to 120 hours of community service or imprisonment of up to 120 hours
- For the second finding of contempt, up to 120 hours of community service and imprisonment of up to 120 hours
- For the third or subsequent finding of contempt, up to 240 hours of community service and imprisonment as well as administrative fees
Your Rights as a Parent
If it’s in the best interest of your child, they should have both parents in their life. Our attorneys can help parents fight for visitation rights and child custody. Whether you are the parent unable to see your child or custodial parent seeking support, Arnold Law Group, APC is the premier choice for help with your child custody, visitation, and support concerns.
At Arnold Law Group, APC, we have over 30 years of combined experience that we devote to helping our clients fight for a favorable outcome. For the advocacy and support you need, please contact us online or at 559.900.1263.