Do I Have a Right to Visitation? Can I Withhold Support If Denied Access to My Children?
Your marriage has ended and you have minor children. Your spouse has primary custody and you have been ordered to pay child support. You have no problem with that, as you want to contribute to the health and welfare of your kids. You want to know that their basic needs are being met. But you’re uncertain what rights you have because you pay child support. Does your payment of support require the custodial parent to comply with the court’s visitation/access order? If your ex wrongfully denies visitation, do you have the right to withhold or suspend payment of child support?
Is Visitation Conditional Upon Payment of Child Support, or Vice Versa?
There’s a common misperception that child support and visitation are like some form of contractual arrangement, that if a non-custodial parent pays child support, the custodial parent must grant visitation; and that, should a custodial parent wrongfully deny visitation, the non-custodial parent has a right to withhold support payments. Neither is true—there’s legally no contingent relationship between the payment of support and the right to visitation.
For a noncustodial parent, that means that, should your ex-spouse willfully (and in violation of court order) prevent you from having required visitation, you do not have the right to stop making your support payments. Conversely, though, if you lose your job, are laid off, or for any other reason cannot make your child support payments, you still have the right to visitation as set forth in the divorce decree. Your ex-spouse cannot deny you the right to see and spend time with your children because of failure to pay child support.
There’s good reason for not tying the payment of child support to the right to visitation. When a divorce involves minor children, those issues related to the minor children—custody, visitation and support—are all decided under one primary guideline—the best interests of the child. It has long been shown that a minor child’s best interests are served by regular contact with both parents.
Does a Parent Paying Child Support Have a Right to Know How the Money Is Spent?
The money paid in child support is intended to provide for the minor child’s needs. Those needs include personal items, such as clothes, food, schoolbooks and similar items. They also include broader needs, such as shelter, utilities and entertainment. When you pay child support, you expect that some of it will be used to pay rent, mortgage payments, heating bills and other household expenses, but you want some confidence that your ex-spouse isn’t using the support for wholly personal purchases.
As a general rule, though, states typically don’t mandate that custodial parents document where the child support payments go. A few states have procedures whereby a noncustodial parent can ask the court to compel an accounting of how child support is spent. Texas is not one of those states.
Contact the Proven Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we know from experience the difficulties non-custodial parents can have, even when they honor their commitments to pay child support to an ex-spouse. We can help you take the right steps to protect your legal rights. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. To speak with an aggressive divorce and family law attorney to learn more about your rights when paying child support, contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.