The unequivocal answer is “no.” Under Massachusetts law, child support and parenting time are separate matters and a parent’s failure to pay child support is not a legal justification to deny or suspend visitation.
Likewise, a parent who is being denied parenting time with their child is not entitled to discontinue paying child support.
If you are the parent receiving child support, it may be tempting to want to punish the non-supporting parent by withholding their parenting time with the child, but refusing to allow the other parent to exercise parental rights is likely to make matters worse.
First of all, by denying the child the opportunity to spend time with the other parent, you are punishing the child. You are also using the child as a tool to attempt to manipulate or coerce the other parent into paying child support. Judges tend to frown on this type of behavior.
If you are withholding parenting time that has been court ordered, then you are violating a court order and putting yourself in a position to be held in contempt of court. A finding of contempt of court has its own serious consequences depending upon whether you are found in civil contempt.
Perhaps most importantly, the court may determine that your actions in withholding or interfering with parenting time have been contrary to the best interests of the child. This could provide a basis for the court to award custody of the child to the other parent.
Moreover, recent studies suggest that the more involved a parent is in his/her child’s life, the more likely that parent is to pay child support and fulfill financial obligations. Denying parenting time may create more hostility that will make the other parent more resistant to paying child support.
If you have other reasons to believe that a custody or parenting plan should be modified, we recommend that you discuss the matter with an experienced family law attorney before taking any unilateral actions.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or paternity action, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation to protect your legal rights.