What Rights Does a Father Have to His Children If He Doesn't Pay Child Support?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

What Rights Does a Father Have to His Children If He Doesn't Pay Child Support?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Even if a father isn't paying court-ordered child support, a mother cannot prevent him from seeing his children. Unless a court has ordered otherwise, parents have fundamental rights to be in their children's lives. This includes fathers who have failed to make payments, though this can put them in trouble with the law. A mother who stops their children's father from spending time with them because of child support issues can also face legal consequences.

Father holding young child

All courts take parental rights extremely seriously. When parents get divorced, their responsibilities and relationships with their children should not change. Courts go to great lengths to keep the best interests of children in mind throughout a divorce proceeding. The laws seek to ensure stability and as little change in the children's lives as possible.

Custody

The court determines custody during divorce proceedings. The physical custodial parent's home is where the child lives most of the time. Despite physical custody, both parents keep equal legal custody of their child. Even if you are the non-custodial parent, you still have an absolute right to decide your child's schooling, medical care, and other important life decisions.

The court orders the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. If you are the non-custodial parent and you have not been paying support, your child's other parent cannot withhold information from you or prevent you from seeing your child. Courts view child support payments and visitation rights as two separate and distinct legal issues.

Enforcement

If you're not paying child support as ordered by the court, however, your child's other parent can bring an enforcement proceeding. This means that they will petition the court to require that you make your child support payments. Courts have tools at their disposal to make sure you are financially providing for your children. They can garnish your wages or suspend your driver's license.

Whether you are making payments or not, if the custodial parent is limiting the time you spend with your child, you can also ask for enforcement. But even if your child's other parent is being uncooperative, this is not an excuse to stop your financial support. Don't stop making your child support payments until the court orders you to do so.

Modification

If you can't afford your child support payments anymore, you can ask the court for a modification. You must provide evidence of income and why you can't make ends meet while also paying child support. The court will review this information and possibly reduce your payments.

Likewise, if you are not getting enough time with your child, you can ask the court to modify your child custody. If presented with sufficient evidence, the court may increase your visitation or even change physical custody to you.

Child custody and child support are separate legal issues. Even if you are not making child support payments, you have an absolute right to be in your child's life.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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