National Foster Care Month

Can I Deny My Former Spouse Visitation If Child Support Is in Arrears?

If you are entitled to receive child support from your former spouse, it can be extremely frustrating if he/she fails to pay that support as ordered. It can even be tempting to deny visitation with the children until the child support is caught up. A Murfreesboro child support lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains why you cannot deny visitation based on a child support arrearage. 

Child Support Basics

The State of Tennessee imposes a legal obligation on both parents to financially support a minor child until the child reaches the age of majority, or longer in some cases.National Foster Care Month When the parents get divorced, or otherwise no longer live together, the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines will be used to determine which parent pays child support and in what amount. When deciding child support, the income of both parents is considered along with factors such as how many nights the child spends with each parent, the cost of childcare, and health care expenses. Whether as part of a divorce or paternity case, once the court orders child support to be paid by one parent to the other, that becomes a final order of the court. Failure to pay as ordered, therefore, is a violation of that court order. 

Parenting Time Basics

While both parents have a financial obligation to a minor child, they also both have rights related to that child. One of those is the right to exercise parenting time (visitation) with the child. In Tennessee, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time is known as the “Primary Residential Parent (PRP)” and the other parent is referred to as the “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP).”  When the parents submit their Parenting Plan during their divorce or paternity case, a parenting time schedule must be included in that plan. The terms of that plan become orders of the court just like the child support order with similar potential sanctions for violating the order.

Child Support and Parenting Time Cannot Be Linked

If you are the parent receiving child support (known as the “payee”) you probably rely on those funds to pay your monthly bills and provide for your child. If the child’s other parent (the “payor”) gets behind on the child support payments it can wreak havoc on your finances. It can also cause you to get angry. While your emotional reaction may be understandable, you cannot allow that to translate into taking negative actions yourself – such as denying visitation. In the eyes of the law, child support and visitation are two separate and distinct legal issues. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-6-502 governs issues related to parenting time in the State of Tennessee, stating in pertinent part:

“In all cases where visitation is ordered, both parents shall comply with such order of visitation by turning over custody of the child on the days and at the times so ordered by the court and by picking up the child and returning the child on the days and at the times so ordered by the court. An order of visitation may be enforced by using the license revocation, denial or suspension procedures provided in this part and any other sanctions deemed appropriate by the court.”

If you are not receiving child support payments as ordered by the court, consult with an experienced child support lawyer about the legal ways in which the order may be enforced. Do not fail to abide by the parenting time schedule in the meantime because it is not just unfair to your child, but it could result in the court ordering sanctions against you for violating the court order.  

Contact a Murfreesboro Child Support Lawyer

If you have additional questions about child support in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child support lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Stan Bennett