The issue of custody, parenting time, and child support are often so intertwined in the legal system that people may mistakenly believe that one cannot happen without the other. The most common misconception may be that a parent somehow forfeits his or her right to parenting time (or visitation) with their child because they have either fallen behind on child support payments or have not made any payments at all. Beware of this myth as it can cost you in the eyes of the courts in NJ.
It is a basic and fundamental right that a parent enjoys the company of his or her own child and it is a significant burden to terminate that right, generally due to egregious behavior by that parent that causes the State to step in and take drastic action. Payment of his or her child support obligation, while taken seriously by the State and enforced to the best if its ability, is not a prerequisite for parenting time.
Therefore, while it may be tempting to tell your ex that he or she cannot spend time with your child if they are unable to pay child support for him or her, do not do it. This approach is frowned upon by the courts and will generally cause more problems for you than the non-paying parent. Parenting time and payment of child support are treated very differently in the courts. While the courts will enforce the payment of child support, they will never, as a general principle, take away the right to see your child because you are unable to do so. No matter which side of this issue you happen to be on, it is important to discuss your rights and options with an experienced family law practitioner. Posted by Elizabeth A. Calandrillo, Esq.