For any number of reasons, your child’s other parent might stop making child support payments. Although this might be a disservice to your child and ensuring that their basic needs are provided for, you cannot stop allowing your child’s other parent to have visitation.
Denying the other parent access to your child – regardless of why you’re doing it – can negatively impact you. A court may find you in contempt and impose civil or criminal penalties.
That said, you are not without recourse if your child’s other parent isn’t paying child support. Various legal avenues are available to help you enforce the order.
Child Support and Visitation Orders are Legally Binding
If you and your child’s other parent have divorced or separated, a couple of the issues you might have settled are those concerning child support and visitation. Whether you and your child’s other parent or a judge decided on a resolution, once the court approved the arrangements, they became legally binding. That means the parties involved are expected to adhere to all provisions and any deviation can be enforceable.
Thus, your child’s other parent not paying child support is a violation of a court order. Taking matters into your own hands by denying visitation is also a violation. The court can take action against all non-complying parties.
What Happens If I Stop Visitation?
Because child support and visitation are two separate matters, denying your child’s other parent access to your child is not a valid method for enforcing a court order.
Even though your child’s other parent is violating a court order by failing to make child support payments, they can still seek to have the visitation order enforced. They might call the police or the District Attorney’s office to get you to comply. Additionally, they could file a motion for contempt with the court.
A motion for contempt is a request for the court to hold a hearing to determine whether an individual has willfully disobeyed a court order. If the judge finds that you violated a visitation order, they could fine you or have you incarcerated.
What Can I Do If My Ex Stopped Paying Child Support?
You have a few different options for enforcing a child support order that do not result in criminal penalties.
You can talk with your spouse to get a better understanding of their situation and why support payments have stopped. You might find that they have lost their job, their income has decreased, or they have experienced other life changes that have substantially affected their finances.
If this is the case, you or your child’s other parent should seek a modification of the child support order. A modification can result in a decrease in the payment amount, which may be more feasible for your child’s other parent.
Of course, divorce or separation matters involving children can be complicated and emotions can get in the way. In such situations, it might be challenging to have a rational and objective discussion about certain issues. Therefore, you might go through mediation to work out the problem.
With mediation, an objective third party helps facilitate constructive conversations with you and your child’s other parent. You may be able to resolve the issue without having to go to court. Still, you must have any agreements approved by the judge to be legally binding and enforceable.
A third avenue for addressing child support non-compliance is by filing a motion for contempt. As mentioned earlier, contempt is when someone willfully disobeys a court order. You will be scheduled for a hearing, and the court will decide whether a violation occurred and how to remedy it.
The court has various methods for enforcing child support, including:
- Imposing a fine
- Ordering the parent to complete community service
- Placing a lien on the parent’s property
- Withholding wages from the parent’s paycheck
If non-compliance continues even after the court has taken action, it might then sentence the parent to jail and/or order them to pay a fine.
How Can I Get Help with a Child Support Issue?
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we recognize the difficulties that can arise if your child’s other parent is delinquent on child support payments. Our Los Angeles team can help you understand your legal options and guide you through the process of enforcing the order.
Schedule a free consultation with us by calling (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form.