Child support and visitation: Withholding one for the other

When marriages dissolve, everyone in the family is impacted. From the former spouses, who are grieving the loss of their primary relationship while also rebuilding their lives on their own, to the children who must get used to spending alternating weekends with their parents, everyone has to change and adjust. Sometimes during the divorce process, hostilities between former spouses can lead to issues with child support and visitation. If your divorce is becoming more contentious as time goes on, and visitation is becoming difficult, it is critical that you attempt to remain calm and to comply with any temporary visitation or support orders.

The importance of ongoing visitation

Generally, while the divorce is in process, which can take many months in the state of New York, one of the parents will have primary custody while waiting for the final custody and support agreements to be made official by the family court. The parent with primary temporary custody may choose, possibly in direct violation of a current court-approved parenting order, to withhold visitation from their estranged spouse. Unless there is a history of abuse directed at the children or a record of the children requesting to not have visitation, the courts will generally look quite unfavorably on these actions. Unless specifically directed not to do so by their attorney, the parent with temporary physical custody of the children should always make every reasonable effort to comply with visitation requirements and requests. A judge will review all claims regarding parenting time and visitation, and it is in everyone’s best interest to comply with the temporary order/agreement until the divorce is finalized.

The importance of maintaining child support

Whatever the amount of child support listed in the temporary support order pending the final divorce agreement, it is imperative that the non-custodial parent pay the full amount on time as required. This shows not only good will and personal character, but also a dedication to the well-being of their children. In cases where visitation is being denied, it can be tempting to consider withholding payments of support until visitation is allowed. Unless specifically advised to do so by your attorney, however, it is generally not in anyone’s best interest to allow child support payments to fall into arrears A judge will, in time, be able to review the payments, as well as the issues with custody and visitation, and any necessary changes to the divorce order will then be made as a result.

Taking the higher road looks good

The courts will look at your behavior in court, your history of interactions, including payment of support and how well visitation has gone, and other factors when deciding custody, visitation, and child support payment amounts. The best way to ensure a fair outcome is to remain calm, reasonable, and on your best behavior when interacting with your soon-to-be-ex and the courts. By complying with support or visitation requirements even when your former spouse is not maintaining his or her half of the compromise, you are establishing a positive trail of evidence that can help you when the divorce is finalized.