Ask a Divorce Lawyer: Why do I have to pay child support if I can’t see my kids?

Question: I am paying child support and medical coverage for my twins. I have to have two jobs in order to cover the costs and have some actual net income coming into my home. 

The real problem is, I never get to see my kids and she is constantly moving around and going missing. 

Why do I have to pay child support for kids she doesn’t even allow me to see or talk to? Can the courts force her to let me see my children?

 

Answer:

Unfortunately, we hear stories like yours nearly every day. No dad likes to pay support for children he cannot see, and it seems manifestly unfair and unjust to force dads to pay child support to mothers whole wholly ignore, sometimes flagrantly, their parenting time rights.

 However, in most states (Utah included), that is the way the system works – child support and parenting time are two separate issues, and you cannot quit one if the other is not followed. That is, you cannot quit paying child support if you cannot see your children, and your children’s mother cannot quit allowing your parenting time if you cannot pay child support. They are separate issues to be dealt with separately. 

You should continue to pay child support. If you cannot pay the current amount, consider filing a motion to reduce your child support obligation. The standards and procedural requirements vary by state, but, in general, parents who genuinely cannot afford to pay (e.g., have lost a job) will receive a reduced amount or a long-term payment plan. 

Contact your attorney, or the court or child support administrator for your case if you do not have one, immediately for information about the rules applicable to your case. You should also read your order carefully to determine what parenting time rights you have and how best to enforce them. If you have regularly scheduled time or “reasonable time,” most courts will hold the parent who does not allow that time in contempt. Contempt proceedings can be brought by party motion (your motion), and sanctions include fines. If the denial is severe, you may have a basis to modify custody. 

As with child support modifications, procedure and standards vary by state for parenting time enforcement and custody modifications.  While you consider your options, be sure to document every request for time, when you made it, who was present, etc., to refresh your memory in the event you must testify in court.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Utah. I can only give you general information in this answer. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parents do.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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