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Child custody: Does child support affect visitation?

When parents decide to divorce, one spouse usually pays child support. Parents may share child custody or one parent could have sole custody, but in whatever case, what happens when child support is unpaid? Does it have any bearing on whether the payor can visit the children? Parents in San Francisco may be wondering if state laws allow a parent to stop visitation because the other parent in late with support payments.  

The law is clear 

The straightforward answer is, no. A parent can’t prevent the other parent from seeing his or her children because child support payments are late. In California child support and child custody are two separate issues. A court order must be followed even when child support payments are late. So, one violation of a court order does not mean it’s all right to violate another. 

Issues are separate for a reason 

The reason the law keeps child support and child custody laws separate is because it’s important that children have meaningful relationships with both parents. Courts don’t believe that keeping a child away from a parent because of late support payments does anyone any good. By the same token, there are things the court can do to enforce a child support order such issuing a contempt of court charge against the non-paying parent.  

The parent to whom child custody payments are made may petition the court for enforcement of the order. If a parent in San Francisco is withholding visitation time because of late payments, he or she is also in violation of a court order. Court orders for child custody and child support must be followed unless the court has agreed to a modification of those orders.  

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