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What do you do when a noncustodial parent won't pay support?

A lot of newly divorced parents are puzzled about the relationship between child support and child visitation -- but it's important not to confuse the two. Otherwise, you may make several mistakes that could put you back in court.

Child support is the money paid by the noncustodial parent for his or her share of the child's living expenses.

Visitation is a completely different legal issue -- it's the right of the noncustodial parent to have reasonable access to his or her child in person, over the phone and via the internet.

The hardest thing that newly divorced parents seem to have trouble understanding is that one has nothing to do with the other. Child support is never considered a payment so that the noncustodial parent can actually see his or her child.

In the same way that a noncustodial parent could choose to pay the support but decide not to visit the child, he or she could also choose to visit the child while not paying support. If you try to interfere with the court-ordered visitation schedule, you'll be the one making explanations to the judge!

How do you handle it, then, when the noncustodial parent of your child stops making child support payments if you can't withhold visitation until he or she pays up? Try the following steps instead:

  • Contact the other parent to see if the payment was simply forgotten. If so, the issue can be quickly remedied.
  • If the other parent has lost a job, and you're willing to make an adjustment on the support, suggest that he or she seek a temporary modification in the support order until he or she finds a job. While it might seem counterintuitive to help out your ex, consider the fact that if he or she goes to jail for the unpaid support it could be a lot longer before you see a support payment.
  • If the other parent is simply withholding payment for some reason, remind him or her that it is a court order. If the other parent won't budge, go to the court and ask the court to garnish his or her wages directly. Other measures can be used to collect past-due support, like taking his or her tax return. If necessary, the other parent can even be jailed for nonpayment.

Investigate legal avenues for more help with child support issues.

Source: FindLaw, "Enforcement of Child Support: FAQ's," accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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