Avoiding Baby Mama or Papa Drama by Allowing Visitation

We receive at least one or two calls every month from distressed mothers and fathers dealing with their ex-significant others. Typically, the caller asks the following question, “Do I have to allow visitation when my ex (typically dad) doesn’t pay child support?” Our answer is always the same: “YES!” All parents have legal rights to visitation unless they have none pursuant to court order or termination of parental rights. In Virginia, like almost every other jurisdiction, you cannot withhold visitation simply based on the fact that your ex is no longer paying child support.

Rule to Show Cause for Nonpayment of Child Support

Instead, you need to pursue contempt of court proceedings. Most likely, it will be in the form of a “Rule to Show Cause” or “RTSC” action. By filing a rule to show cause, you’re asking your ex to provide a valid reason as to why he or she should not be found in contempt of court. Again, you can’t withhold visitation as punishment against your ex for not paying child support. Any attempt to withhold visitation or limit your ex’s visitation rights is illegal without a binding court order stating otherwise.

Do Not Withhold Visitation as Punishment for Nonpayment of Child Support

Any willful attempt to withhold or prevent your child’s mother or father from visitation is punishable by sanctions or even jail time. If your ex files a show cause against you for failing to allow visitation pursuant to an existing court order, you may be in big trouble if you don’t have a valid defense or reason as to why you withheld visitation in the first place. “Because he didn’t pay child support last month” is NOT a valid reason or defense to withholding visitation. If you rely on this as your defense, you may face serious consequences, including paying his attorney’s fees and court costs. You may even have to provide a lot more visitation time to make up for his lost visitation.

Remedies for Nonpayment of Child Support

So what is a parent to do when the other parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support? Being a single mom or dad is difficult, even without all of the financial dilemmas. If your ex doesn’t pay child support, you can file a rule to show cause against him (or her). Again, the consequences include jail time, attorney’s fees and/or other penalties. Other penalties include loss of occupational licenses, driver’s licenses, refusal to renew passports, garnishments and a host of other enforcement tools.

Conversely, if your ex withholds visitation from you, you can’t unilaterally retaliate by refusing to pay child support. These things are not contingent upon each other. Your attorney may be able to help you reduce your future monthly child support obligation, but this has to be done by consent order or through court.
For free information regarding child support and visitation, you can visit the U.S. Department of Health to view a free Fact Sheet here. The American Bar Association also has a free public education guide titled “Issues Surrounding Visitation.” For free Virginia divorce law information, you’ll find a lot of very useful information at the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar’s website.

Contact Us Today

If you’re looking for a Virginia divorce attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.