Parenting can feel like a game of “good cop, bad cop” in which one parent does all the hard work, and the other gets to do all the “fun” things with the kids. Divorce or a custody battle can make that dynamic worse, when the parents aren’t under the same roof anymore. One parent may be managing the kids’ day-to-day needs, making sure they’re fed, clothed, and to school on time, while the other parent uses their time with the kids for fun outings, playing video games, and eating junk food. When the “fun” parent is also responsible for paying child support, but doesn’t, it can be infuriating to the “responsible” parent. We are often asked, “Can I deny visitation if my ex isn’t paying child support?”
The question is understandable. When you are putting in the hard work of raising kids day in and day out, it is hard not to get angry when the other parent gets to enjoy the fun part of parenting with little or none of the responsibility. It seems logical that if they don’t pay, they shouldn’t get to play. Unfortunately, the law looks at things differently.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHILD SUPPORT AND TIME-SHARING
Child custody and visitation are referred to as “time-sharing” in Florida, because that term more accurately reflects the reality that parents share their children’s time, rather than one parent being the “main” parent and the other just “visiting” the kids.
From a standpoint of parental rights, it might seem fair that if one parent doesn’t live up to their responsibilities, they should have the “right” to see their kids limited. But child support is not about one parent’s right to receive money, and time-sharing is not about a parent’s right to see their children.
Instead, both child support and time-sharing are about the CHILDREN’S rights: their right to the financial support of both parents, and their right to a relationship with both parents. When you look at it that way, it makes no sense that just because children are not receiving one thing they are entitled to (financial support) they should be denied another thing they need (a relationship with a parent).
You might be saying to yourself, “If they really cared about the kids, they would pay support as well as show up for time-sharing.” That may or may not be true, as there are a variety of reasons a parent might fall behind in paying support. Regardless, the two issues are considered separately by the courts, and if you refuse to honor an order for time-sharing because the other parent isn’t paying child support, you risk having your own time with the children reduced by the court.
WHAT CAN I DO IF THE OTHER PARENT ISN’T PAYING CHILD SUPPORT?
The first thing you should do is to examine your motivations, and that will direct your next step. Is your desire to limit time-sharing based on the need for more support? Then what you need is to try to enforce payment of support through the courts. There are plenty of unpleasant consequences for the non-payment of child support, such as the suspension of a driver’s license or liens against property. For some parents, these are stronger motivators than the prospect of a reduction in time-sharing.
Do you want to modify time-sharing because the other parent is doing something that endangers the kids? Then you may want to petition the court to modify the time-sharing order. Just be aware that a difference in parenting styles is not grounds for modification. The other parent may be feeding the kids pizza and PopTarts instead of organic chicken and vegetables, but that’s not enough to get their parenting time reduced.
Whatever your needs, you should consult a Florida family law attorney first. An attorney who is familiar with the courts in Dade County and Broward County can give you an accurate picture of how a judge might view your case and what outcome you are likely to get if you pursue your concerns in court. A family law attorney can also help you prepare for the greatest likelihood of success in your legal matter.
If you are having problems with a co-parent who isn’t paying child support, enlist the help of an experienced Miami family law attorney. Contact family lawyer Antonio Jimenez to schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns about child support enforcement, time-sharing, or any other aspect of your family law matter.