3 Reasons You Can’t Trade Visitation for Child Support in Divorce

For most families who are dealing with divorce or family court, custody and visitation are set up simultaneously with child support. Because these things all have to do with your child and where he lives, they are probably intertwined in your mind and you see them all as part of a package. But these two things should not be seen as dependent on each other or even related. Here are three reasons why.

1. Time Doesn’t Equal Money.

The truth is that the actual amount time your child spends with you or your ex has nothing to do with child support. Residential custody is only the preliminary factor in setting up child support. The non-custodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent. But beyond that, what happens with your parenting plan has no impact on child support.

Many parents believe that child support should somehow be adjusted to account for time the child spends with the non-custodial parent. After all, they reason, when the child is with that parent, he is in charge of meeting the child’s needs and if the non-custodial parent has the child for an entire week in the summer, there shouldn’t be any child support being paid for that week. But this isn’t the case. It doesn’t matter if the non-custodial parent spends one day a week or seven days a week with the child, child support is not affected.

Child support is a set amount that only fluctuates when it is increased or decreased by court order. The amount of time each of you spends with your child does not affect it, unless you have a complete change in custody, or go to a shared parenting plan where you each have equal time with your child.

2. Other Expenses.

The way you share medical, educational, and other expenses also does not change based on your parenting schedule, and if you are the one that takes your child to the doctor and the other parent is the one who is responsible for medical costs, he or she should reimburse you for the expense (the ideal way to handle that is to have it set up so that parent is directly billed for all costs and it isn’t an issue at checkout).

3. No Trade-Offs.

Another important point to remember is that a custodial parent can’t refuse to allow or cut back on visitation if child support hasn’t been paid. Sometimes custodial parents feel as if this is an effective way of getting the other parent to pay. It can definitely feel unfair to watch the other parent get to be the fun parent in your child’s eyes while he continues to shirk financial responsibilities.

It can be tempting to use visitation time as a weapon since you know it is something that is important to the other parent and is something that you can easily control. But your child needs time with the other parent as well as financial support from him. Stopping one to get the other isn’t fair to your child. Nonpayment of child support has to be dealt with through the courts and even if the other parent fails to provide financial support, he or she still has an important role in your child’s life and should not be prevented from filling it.

You should also understand that withholding visitation is considered custodial interference and can be used as grounds to actually change custody to the other parent. You must maintain the visitation order no matter what is happening with the child support order.

It can be hard to keep parenting issues and money matters separate, but doing so will help you prevent financial problems from interfering with your relationships with your child. And keeping the best interests of the child is one of the most important things to consider when going trhough a divorce.