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Child Custody & Parenting Plans

Both Must Play by the Rules When It Comes to Child Custody

When parents in California divorce, decisions will need to be made regarding child custody. While the trend these days may be moving toward joint custody, it still may be the case that one spouse will have physical custody of the child, and the other spouse will have visitation rights. This means that the noncustodial spouse may pay child support to the custodial spouse.

Of course, in a perfect world, both parents will dutifully follow the court-ordered child custody and visitation schedule. Custody exchanges will be done without incident and the parents will be, if not cooperative, then at least cordial with each other. After all, despite being divorced, they share the common goal of raising their child.

But, we do not live in a perfect world. Often the rancor that leads to the end of the marriage continues long after the divorce is made official. For example, out of bitter feelings, a custodial parent might think that the noncustodial parent should not have visitation with the child. In an act of revenge or punishment, the custodial parent might keep the noncustodial parent from exercising his or her visitation rights. When this happens, the noncustodial parent may be tempted to withhold child support. After all, why should they pay their ex when their ex isn't following the divorce decree?

Unfortunately, not only may such tactics not work, but they could actually hurt the noncustodial parent in the long-run. Legally, just because a parent isn't following the divorce decree doesn't mean the other parent can just stop paying child support. The failure to pay child support could lead to the loss of visitation rights. If the noncustodial parent wants the divorce decree enforced, they need to go to court to do so. In addition, they can move for a modification of the child custody order so they can spend more time with their child.

While it may seem unfair to have to pay child support to a custodial parent who isn't playing by the rules, instead of taking the law into their own hands, noncustodial parents should instead turn to the court to resolve the situation. If a parent is tempted to stop paying child support due to their ex's bad behavior, they should instead think twice, and address the issue in a manner that won't ultimately backfire on them.

Source: FindLaw, "Custody or Visitation Interference," accessed April 30, 2018