Child support and parenting rights go hand-in-hand in litigation. However, they do not hinge on one another. Just because you are not paying child support does not mean that a custodial parent can prevent you from seeing your child.
Our Atlanta office has seen an influx of cases in which the non-custodial parent has either fallen behind on child support or the custodial parent wants an increase and uses parenting time and/or visitation as a game. Here are three things one should know before engaging in this risky behavior:
- Change of custody could come because of your actions. An ability to co-parent is vital in a judge’s consideration on which parent is eventually awarded custody. If you are withholding parenting time from the other parent, awarding custody to the other parent becomes a very easy decision to make. Georgia law has a presumption that a child will benefit from both parents unless there are egregious and/or dangerous circumstances. Withholding visitation for any other reason makes the issue about you rather than focusing on what is in the best interest of your child.
- Exposure for Contempt. If there is a parenting plan in place and you unilaterally withhold visitation from the non-custodial parent, you have exposure to be held in contempt by a judge. Having to litigate a contempt for unnecessarily withholding visitation is easily avoidable. If there is something going on that is precipitating your decision to withhold visitation, consult with an attorney to see whether a modification is warranted for the parenting plan. “Street justice” and engaging in self-help never advances your cause.
- Child support and parenting time are separate issues. The court does not treat visitation and child support as two concepts that are contingent upon one another. Actually, it is the complete opposite. Georgia courts treat these legal issues as completely separate issues. Therefore, just because someone is not paying child support does not mean they do not get to see their child. There are other ways to fix that bad conduct. Withholding time is not the way to go. Think smart. Think clearly. Parenting is not a game.