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Don't mix up child support and visitation rights

If you're like many mothers who maintain primary custody of your child after a divorce, depending on timely child support payments from the child's father can be a risky proposition.

There are many reasons why a father may be undependable in paying child support, some of which may indicate character deficiencies, while others could simply result from a patch of bad luck.

Regardless of the reasons, when the times get tough and your budget feels stretched to its limits, it is normal for a mother like yourself to feel as though the only recourse you have is withholding child visitation privileges.

There is nothing wrong with feeling this way - after all, the child support order handed down by the court declares that the father must provide that support in a timely way. Furthermore, you're the one who must take care of the child on a day-to-day basis, and you may need the money to make ends meet.

Regardless of the emotional weight of this dilemma, you must keep yourself from conflating these two rights. In the eyes of the law, they are not related, and you may be inviting unwanted trouble for yourself.

Parents' rights versus children's rights

The fundamental issue at the heart of this conflict is the nature of these two independent rights that legally have little or no bearing on each other.

Under the law, the right to visit a child is the right of a parent. However, the right to support is not your right, but rather the right of your child. Even though the practical ways that this conflict plays out affect you immensely, denying visitation because you're not getting the child support you should is not ultimately going to work in your favor.

This kind of solution is a quick fix that may create a dangerous precedent undermining you in the future. If you choose to withhold visitation until child support resumes or catches up-to-date, the child's father may be able to use this as leverage against you.

This is not to say that the child's father is in the right by not paying support, but the law does recognize that circumstances change. He may need a modification to the support order if his income or debts change significantly.

What you don't want is to create any reason for the courts to look unfavorably on you and your parenting choices.

Get proper help to fight for justice

Ultimately, your child deserves child support. As the custodial parent, you have a responsibility to use those funds to create the best life you can for your child. Carrying that burden when the child's father is not carrying his is very difficult.

The good news is that the law has number of ways that it can compel a parent to pay child support. The frustrating news is that the system rarely works as quickly as you might wish it would.

You do not have to fight this battle alone, and shouldn't. An experienced and empathetic attorney can help you explore different avenues to pursue justice for your child, ensuring that your rights remain protected throughout the process.

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