Child support and visitation are not dependent on each other. In other words, what happens with your visitation doesn’t affect your child support. Now that being said, there is one exception in most states, and that is overnight visits. If overnight visits exceed a certain number of days per month then child support is adjusted. There are some misconceptions about child support and visitation and they can lead to some major headaches. Here are some of the more common misconceptions and the reality about them.
Child support is set by the court based on the income of the parents. Child support can be increased or decreased based on special circumstance such as needs of the children. There are cases in most states that allow for a reduction in child support based on a percentage of overnight visits to the non-custodial parent. Alternately the parents can agree on a child support amount and as long as it meets the needs of the children the court will accept it even outside of the court established guidelines.
Child support is usually set at the same time as the custody and visitation giving the illusion they are all tied together or dependent on each other. Child support is only dependent on custody. The custodial parent receives it and the non-custodial parent pays it. After that is established child support no longer has any bearing on the rest of your shared parenting/custody.
Medical, dental, education and other expenses that are apportioned outside of child support are also not effected by your shared parenting/custody agreement.
Some common misconceptions
It seems logical that child support would fluctuate with visitation but this is one of those things that looks good on paper but doesn’t work in real life. My ex has 6 weeks during the summer with a statement that all the weeks aren’t to be taken together. One summer he requested to take all 6 weeks together and I agreed. He later stated he shouldn’t have to pay child support for the full month that he had our son. I disagreed. As I said it “seems” logical but it in fact isn’t. I had to explain that although it sounds good and my expenses were less during the time-period, they didn’t go away completely. I still had to maintain a home, vehicle and utilities during the time-period. Just because our son was with him didn’t mean I could skip paying my mortgage or forgo a car payment. Bills still have to be paid whether the child is present or not.
Another misconception is that non-payment or late payment of child support justify withholding visitation. Child support and visitation are not tied together. A parent could be years behind in child support and still entitled to their full visitation rights. If you withhold visitation you would then be in violation of the agreement which at its worst could cause you to lose custody.
You only have to pay child support if the court orders you to pay. That is false. If you don’t pay the court will order it to be paid when a child support order is gotten. In the beginning of a separation you can get an estimate of what your child support will be. Start paying but make sure you get a receipt. It is best to use a check or money order that automatically gives you a receipt. Once you go to court for the child support you can provide evidence that you have been paying to the court.
The parents aren’t allowed to decide on child support and once set it can’t be changed without going to court again. That is also false. If the parents agree to an amount the court will accept the agreement as long as it is reasonable. Child support can also be modified through mutual agreement of the parents. Most states simply require notification of the new agreement. This is as simple as writing up an agreement that both parents sign and notarize and file with the clerk of the court. My ex-husband and I modified our child support for a year while our son tested out living with his father. We wrote up an agreement and filed it with the court. Just remember to make sure the court notifies the child support depository if one is used in your state. It doesn’t take lawyers and judges to decide what is in the best interest of your children if you can learn to communicate and work with the other parent.
Fatal mistake to avoid
I said this previously but it can’t be stressed enough. Do not deny visitation because the other parent is late or not paying the child support. It may seem like a quick fix but visitation should never be used as a tool or weapon. Your children are not the ones that are not paying so don’t punish them for the wrong-doing of the other parent.
It won’t seem fair that the other parent gets to have all the fun while skirting their financial responsibility but it is an issue to address with the courts. Taking matters into your own hands to try and force the other parent to pay only hurts the children in the end.
It can be difficult at times to keep the child support and visitation separate but they are and by using visitation to punish the other parent can end up with you losing custody of your children. The court will not feel sympathy for you skirting your responsibility of ensuring the other parent has access to the children.
Best interest of your children
It is always in the best interest of your children to uphold your responsibilities. If you are the custodial parent then you need to ensure that your child has open and continuing access to the non-custodial parent. This really applies to all parents. Non-custodial parents withhold child support when their visitation is being tampered with or withheld from them just as custodial parents have and do withhold visitation when child support payments are not being made. Both scenarios are wrong. Child support should be paid and visitation should continue regardless of what the other side is doing. The best way to resolve visitation and/or child support issues is through the mediation or the courts if the parents can’t agree. Withholding any of your responsibilities as a parent to punish the other parent or try to remedy a problem on your own just ends up hurting the children in the long run. Always think first, is this in the best interest of the children, if it isn’t then don’t do it.