Going through a divorce is rarely easy for anyone involved. When a divorce involves minor children, it can be even more stressful and emotional both during the divorce proceedings and after the divorce is final. Ideally, the parents are able to work out a mutually agreeable parenting plan that covers all issues related to the child, including custody, visitation, and support. Unfortunately, however, that does not always happen. All too often disputes relating to visitation and/or support arise after the divorce is final. Frequently, the two issues are lumped together by one, or both, of the parents. A La Vergne child support lawyer explains why disputes relating to visitation and support cannot be tied together.
The Divorce Process
When a divorce involves minor children, Tennessee law requires the parents to submitted a Parenting Plan to the court for approval before the divorce can be finalized. The Parenting Plan is intended to be a roadmap for the parents to follow post-divorce and should cover all things related to the child, such as custody, a visitation schedule, child support and plans for how to resolve disputes that may arise. Once approved, the Parenting Plan becomes part of the final judgment of divorce, meaning that the terms of the plan must be followed by the parents unless officially modified by the court at a later date.
Understanding Your Child Support Obligation
The law dictates that both parents of a minor child have a legal obligation to contribute to the care and maintenance of the child until the child reaches the age of majority. When the parents of a minor child get divorced, one parent is typically ordered to pay child support as part of that legal obligation. It is important to understand that the right to receive child support belongs to the child. Because the child is a minor, the child support payments are paid to the custodial parent; however, it is the child who is entitled to the support, not the parent. It is for this reason that child support cannot be waived nor can it be negotiated ahead of time in a pre-nuptial agreement.
Understanding the Right to Visitation with a Minor Child
Just as both parents have a legal obligation to financially support a child until the child reaches the age of majority, both parents also have a legal right to be an active part of the child’s life, absent a good reason to exclude the parent. In Tennessee, the term “visitation” has officially ben replaced with the term “parenting time.” When the parents of a minor child divorce, the Parenting Plan sets forth the parenting time schedule to be followed by both parents post-divorce to ensure that both parents spend as much time as possible with the child.
A Typical Post-Divorce Dispute
Sometimes, the parent obligated to pay child support falls behind on the support payments. That, in turn, frequently causes the custodial parent, known in Tennessee as the “residential parent,” to deny visitation with the child. The argument goes something like this: “If you can’t pay child support, you don’t deserve to spend time with the child.” If you are the residential parent, do not use this argument to deny your ex visitation with the child. Not only is it harmful to your child, but it is against the law.
How Can a La Vergne Child Custody Lawyer Help?
Child support and parenting time are two separate legal issues and they cannot be tied together. If your ex has fallen behind on his/her child support payments, your La Vergne child custody lawyer can assist you with filing a motion for contempt with the court. If, however, you have denied your ex parenting time with the child, in direct violation of the terms of the Parenting Plan, you could be held in contempt of court.
If you find yourself in the middle of a post-divorce dispute over support and/or visitation with a minor child in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced La Vergne child support lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.