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Withholding Visitation for Unpaid Child Support is Not an Option in California
At WHITMARSH FAMILY LAW, PC, our child custody and child support attorney in Los Angeles, CA is often asked about court-ordered visitation rights and their connection to financial payment agreements between separated or divorced couples. The short answer is, child custody and child support are independent subjects in the eyes of the California Family Courts.
Simply put: One parent may not withhold child support if the other parent is denying visitation, and one parent may not deny visitation for the lack of child support received. Either action is a violation of the court-ordered agreements that are in place, and they are legally binding – which means both parties must follow the specific guidelines therein. Failure to do so can lead to another court date that amends the previous agreement, and if you are on the wrong side of the arrangements it may affect your standing in court going forward.
Why Would a Parent Withhold Child Visitation in California?
The California Courts impress upon both parents that being a part of the child’s life is the most crucial part of their legal agreement, and at no time should one parent thwart the positive support of the other in the eyes of the child. If the judge orders parents to support each parent’s visitation and involvement in the child’s life, why would a parent withhold child visitation rights from the other?
As any previously married couple will attest, divorce is complicated, and sometimes emotions get the best of one or both parties, leading to a breakdown in the agreement that was reached in court.
While unlawful, one parent may withhold visitation because of their:
- Disagreement with the actions of the non-custodial parent, including their involvement in a new relationship
- Anger that the divorce occurred, and that the paperwork has been finalized
- Inability to believe the non-custodial parent can properly care for the child
- Issues with the non-custodial parent’s late or lacking pick up times
- Failure to receive child support payments in full or on time from the non-custodial parent
The latter often reflects a desperate attempt by the parent to force child support payments from the non-custodial parent by threatening that s/he cannot see the child until payments are made in full – and that simply is not true. Worse, it could harm their standing with the judge when the terms of the agreements are revisited. When the court orders are in effect, neither parent can take the law into their own hands to force the other to abide by the contract.
What If Your Child Is Legitimately in Danger During Visits with the Other Parent?
The State of California recognizes the increasing importance of both parents being involved in the child’s life, and their supportive approach to ensuring their child has a relationship with the other parent.
However, if one parent legitimately believes their child is in danger when in the care of the other parent, it is important to get law enforcement officials are involved. Baseless allegations are not reason enough to keep a child from their other parent, but evidence can support suspicions or prove that outright danger is imminent when visitation is underway.
Dangerous conditions can include, but are not limited to:
- Child abduction
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Negligent or unsafe conditions in the home
- Physical, mental, or sexual abuse
Violating visitation and custody agreements by keeping or taking a child away from the other parent can fall under California’s child abduction laws. If you have an emergency, where you believe your child is in danger, contact your local police department to intervene, and follow the proper legal channels to reappear before a judge to address the existing agreement and request changes based on the facts of the claim.
Keep in mind, if you are the person who is withholding visitation, and the other parent has a legally binding document in hand stating their rights to the child, s/he may call the police to enforce the order. This can lead to contempt of court, and civil or criminal penalties, depending on the severity of your actions.
Protect Your Rights and Those of Your Children by Calling WHITMARSH FAMILY LAW Today
If you are experiencing difficulty in enforcing your visitation rights alone, or are being denied court-ordered visitation altogether, contact our experienced child custody attorney in Los Angeles, California at WHITMARSH FAMILY LAW today by calling (310) 552-3505 to schedule a free consultation. For more than ten years, our firm has successfully helped parents implement parenting plans that support their children’s best interests, and we work hard to ensure they are applied and enforced accordingly. We can help you seek more time with your children, too.
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