If you are the parent of a minor child who is divorced from the child’s other parent, the terms of the divorce likely included both a child support order and a parenting time schedule. It can be tempting, down the road, to link those two issues together if the parent ordered to pay child support gets behind on those payments. A Murfreesboro child support lawyer urges you not to do that because the law clearly considers visitation and child support to be two separate issues.
Anytime the parents of a minor child live apart, whether because of divorce or because they never married to begin with, child support becomes an issue. 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. The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines are used to determine who will be ordered to pay child support and how much support is ordered. When deciding child support, the income of both parents is taken into account along with additional factors such as how many nights the child spends with each parent, the cost of childcare, and health care expenses. If the parents go through a divorce, the issue of child support is addressed in the Parenting Plan the parties must submit to the court as part of that divorce process. Once the court orders child support to be paid from one parent to the other parent, that obligation becomes an enforceable order of the court. As such, the payor (parent paying child support) is subject to a variety of sanctions if the support is not paid pursuant to the court order.
Visitation (Parenting Time)
Just as the law imposes an obligation on both parents to financially support a minor child, the law also gives both parents the right to exercise parenting time (historically referred to as “visitation”) with the child. In Tennessee, the parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time is referred to as the Primary Residential Parent (PRP) and the other parent is referred to as the Alternative Residential Parent (ARP). As with child support, a parenting time schedule must be included in the Parenting Plan submitted to the court during a divorce proceeding. Also like a child support order, once the parenting time schedule has been accepted by the court, the terms of that plan become orders of the court and subject to enforcement by the court is necessary.
Denial of Visitation When Child Support Is In Arrears
For the parent receiving child support, a common emotional reaction when that support falls behind is to deny the other parent visitation (parenting time) with the child. While this may be an understandable emotional response, a court will not find it acceptable. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-6-502 governs compliance with visitation orders, 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.” Failure to do so trigger enforcement by the court which may include “license revocation, denial or suspension procedures provided in this part and any other sanctions deemed appropriate by the court.”
The bottom line is that child support and visitation are two distinct legal issues. If you are the recipient of child support and the payor is behind on his/her payments, you may request the court’s assistance in enforcing the child support order. Denying your child’s other parent his/her parenting time, however, not only makes you look bad with the court, but it could result in sanctions ordered against you by the court. Instead of putting yourself in that position, consult with an experienced Tennessee child support lawyer about your legal options.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Support Lawyer
If you are concerned about a child support or visitation issue in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child support lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.