Non-Payment of Child Support Does Not Justify Withholding of Visitation
The final divorce decree serves as a type of contract whereby both parties are expected to abide by every condition without fail. All too often, however, either party attempts to break one or more rules after the divorce is finalized. Failure to make full, timely child support payments is among the most serious breaches of contract because it affects the children.
Even when parents have good reasons for failing to pay child support, they have to return to court to make changes. Just as important, no matter how much the other parent needs those payments, he or she has no legal right to retaliate by withholding visitation rights.
Either Parent Can Take a Child Support Case Back to Court
There are many reasons why a parent might stop paying child support. Valid reasons might pertain to a reduction or loss of income. Invalid reasons might apply when divorced parents continue pre-divorce disagreements that may actually have nothing to do with the children.
When it comes to child support, however, parents cannot take the law into their own hands. The Texas courts provide two basic legal alternatives for addressing these issues:
- Enforcement of decree: If your ex-spouse stops paying child support, you need to understand that retaliating by withholding visitation rights serves to punish the children — and it is illegal. Dallas child support attorneys recommend going back to court where a judge can take any number of actions against the non-paying parent to enforce the decree. Withholding wages is possibly the most common remedy, but judges can take other actions, including sending the delinquent parent to jail.
- Post-decree proceedings: The sudden loss in income due to salary reductions or loss of a job can quickly limit the ability of an otherwise-responsible parent to continue making child support payments. With a clear understanding that life does not remain stagnant after divorce, Texas law makes it possible for the courts to change divorce decrees as needed. Since stopping or reducing child support payments is not a valid legal option, parents who face situations like these need to take immediate action in court.
These legal alternatives are not optional -- parents who need to resolve child support issues must go back to court to seek resolution. In fact, even parents who believe that they can reach an informal agreement to change the terms of the divorce decree need to think twice. Informal agreements are not recognized by the courts. They amount to breaching the legal requirements of the divorce decree and they are not enforceable within the law.
Even in Extreme Situations, Parents Need to Take Viable Legal Action
Taking cases back to court can take time. As a general rule, the children fare better when a custodial parent resists the temptation to withhold visitation against a parent who is delinquent in meeting child support requirements. What do you do, however, when the situation is more serious? For example, will you be willing to release the children to visitation when they returned from the last visit with injuries — or even if they reported disturbing events?
When the children's safety is at risk, you need to take immediate action. Your divorce attorney can get involved right away to help you obtain a temporary restraining order or a protective order that puts an immediate end to visitation. If the issues are later resolved, visitation may resume, often in supervised circumstances. Contact us immediately to take advantage of the right legal alternatives for your specific situation.