Law Separates Issues Of Child Support, Visits
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Every week I hear one or more divorced couples exchange the following excuses about why he/she didn't obey a court order:
    "I didn't pay child support because she wouldn't let me see the children."

    "I wouldn't let him see the children because he didn't pay the child support."

Even though it is obvious to virtually everyone that time and money are closely connected, as far as the law of divorce is concerned, time and money are altogether separate issues.

Some people think this aspect of divorce law is unwise. Recent data show that fathers who spend time with their children are far, far more likely to meet their child support obligations than are fathers who do not spend time with their children. Fathers' Rights groups have said, "We told you so." They cite the data to courts to support requests for joint custody and equal time.

In fact there are some cases where non-support-paying fathers have been deprived of their rights to spend time with their children, and there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the visitation interference and the non-payment of support. However, a huge number of non-support-paying fathers do not spend time with their children because they don't want to spend time with their children. Not too long ago a father in my court, who had neither seen his child nor paid child support for many months, explained he'd not paid child support because he had too many other bills to pay, one of which was his girlfriend's car payment.

In family court we spend time and energy trying to convince non-support-paying parents to spend time with their children. We know that if the parent will establish a relationship with the child, the parent will be more likely to provide financial support. We are often not successful in our efforts. Some parents just don't care about their children.

As for the law which continues to treat child support and time with the child as altogether separate matters, the reasoning behind the law is simple. Failure to pay child support does not justify interference with visitation; and interference with visitation does not justify failure to pay support. The underlying principle is age old: Two wrongs do not make a right.




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