December 12, 2015

Can a Parent Withhold Visitation for Unpaid Child Support?

Unpaid child support can be a significant problem. In the final analysis, unpaid child support threatens the wellbeing of children. Oftentimes, the custodial parent who is to receive child support payments on behalf of children needs to take action to enforce an existing court order.

A common thought of a custodial parent is to withhold visitation or parenting time until the noncustodial parent addresses the matter of unpaid child support. The theory is that if the noncustodial parent is not honoring an existing child support order, that individual should not be permitted to enjoy visitation or parenting time with the children.

On its face, there seems to be an air of logic to withholding visitation for unpaid child support. In reality, such a tactic is not legally permissible.

Unpaid Child Support and Visitation: Separate Issues

According to Pennsylvania family law, unpaid child support and visitation and separate and distinct legal matters. They are not connected and do not become so in a situation in which unpaid child support exists. Conversely, if the custodial parent withholds visitation, the noncustodial parent cannot in turn stop paying child support.

Divorced parents need to understand what is in the best interests of children. Complying with a child support order is in the best interests of children. Moreover, regular visitation or parenting time is in the best interests of children.

Remedies for Unpaid Child Support

Pennsylvania law provides a variety of avenues through which a custodial parent can seek enforcement of a child support order. These include everything from seeking enforcement of a child support order in court to engaging the assistance of a child support enforcement agency. What these remedies do not include is what is known as “self-help.”

Self-help occurs when a parent takes matters into his or her own hands when it comes to unpaid child support. Withholding visitation in light of unpaid child support is an example of impermissible self-help.

Legal Representation

The best way to ensure matters like unpaid child support are appropriately and quickly addressed is to engage the services of an experienced child support attorney. Taking a proactive approach in regard to unpaid child support best ensures that the arrearage doesn’t pile up unnecessarily.