Texas Laws on Child Support and Visitation: Withhold visitation if your ex hasn’t paid child support?

Three years after your divorce, it’s painfully clear that your ex-husband has minimal interest in fulfilling his child support obligations. Despite his repeated promises that “the check is in the mail,” each month ends with financial strain. One month, your daughter cannot afford new school clothes; the next, you’re pulling double shifts just to pay the rent. To add to the stress, she soon needs braces, and you’re worried about potential issues with the dental insurance he’s supposed to provide.

Every month’s end sees you texting him, seeking the child support promised in your divorce decree. While he is aware of his obligations, reminding him of the specific terms now feels futile. As your child incurs typical middle school expenses, the financial burden grows heavier.

Yet, you adhere to the visitation schedule. According to the Standard Possession Order, your ex-husband reliably picks up your daughter on assigned weekends, never missing a single band concert or choir recital.

Despite this regularity, the ongoing lack of child support threatens your financial stability, a balance you’ve struggled to maintain since the divorce. When confronted, he claims he’s striving to find stable work to make the $1,000 monthly payments, citing economic hardships.

Trapped by these relentless home financial issues, you start contemplating visitation denial until he pays up. Whether he needs to clear a month’s dues or the entire amount remains undecided; your priority is safeguarding your and your daughter’s well-being.

In this blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we delve into whether you can withhold visitation due to unpaid child support. This issue stirs deep frustration, especially after years of unmet financial support expectations.

You are not without options during this trying time. For questions or if your situation includes unique details not covered here, we encourage reaching out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Although our blog serves a broad audience, we recognize that individual cases differ. For tailored advice, a free consultation with our seasoned family law attorneys might be your next best step.

Child support- what is it and how is it paid?

Child support is crucial in almost every child custody case in Texas, including standalone and larger divorce scenarios. Texas law mandates that parents financially support their children, emphasizing the need for both parents to contribute to their upbringing.

In a typical setup, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. For instance, in the scenario discussed in our blog’s introduction, you are the custodial parent with primary custody of your daughter, meaning she resides with you during the school year. Your ex-husband, the non-custodial parent, has visitation rights on designated weekends and split holidays.

Child support in your case is calculated as a percentage of your ex-husband’s net monthly income, amounting to $1,000 per month. This arrangement continues until your daughter either graduates high school or turns 18, whichever comes later.

The Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division facilitates payments through a court-issued wage withholding order. This order directs your ex-husband’s employer to deduct a specified amount from his wages monthly for support. It ensures consistent payments and minimizes disputes over amounts.

However, we recognize that even with these systems in place, issues can arise. Your ex-husband could lose his job or disputes may occur over the payment amount. It’s in these situations where you might consider visitation denial due to non-payment of child support—a serious decision with significant implications for your family’s dynamics and your child’s well-being.

Such a decision requires thorough consideration, understanding that while withholding visitation might address immediate financial issues, it also impacts your child’s relationship with their other parent. Before taking any action, reflecting on all potential outcomes and consulting legal advice is crucial.

Should you withhold visitation from your ex for not paying support?

In such situations, you might feel compelled to deny your ex-spouse visitation rights due to their failure to pay child support, a serious violation in Texas family law. This failure not only breaches court orders but also destabilizes your financial planning. Managing without the expected $1,000 monthly payment can be highly uncertain, affecting your ability to budget reliably.

However, the answer to whether you should withhold visitation for non-payment of child support is a resolute “no.” Should you seek advice at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan during a free consultation, we would advise against visitation denial. As the primary conservator, you hold more rights in making daily decisions for your child. This position might tempt you to leverage these decisions to hold your ex-spouse accountable.

It’s crucial to remember your actions should focus on what benefits your child most, not necessarily your finances or budget. Although the lack of full financial support impacts your child, their well-being is also compromised when they miss opportunities to see their father.

Moreover, consistently withholding visitation can lead your co-parent to present legitimate complaints against you. Just as you might file an enforcement lawsuit against him for not paying child support, he could similarly file one against you for visitation denial. Such actions could lead both of you into court, where a judge may criticize your co-parenting abilities.

Visitation – custodial versus non-custodial parent

When your co-parent, as the noncustodial parent, attempts to retrieve your son for visitation, he must be made available. This is mandated by Texas law. No exceptions exist, even if your co-parent has missed child support payments for a month or a year. Your court order is technically violated when this happens. In other words, two wrongs do not make a right. In such cases, both you and your co-parent could be found in violation of your court orders and held in contempt of court. Attorney’s fees and other penalties may be the result of having to file an enforcement case. 

Other reasons why you may consider withholding visitation

Several situations might lead you to consider visitation denial with your co-parent. Often, your child might report unsafe conditions at the other parent’s home. In such cases, it might seem reasonable to withhold visitation until the issue is resolved. If the situation poses an emergency, your actions may be justified. Otherwise, addressing the concern through a direct conversation with your co-parent might resolve the issue without needing to stop visitation.

Increasingly, a significant concern for many families is a parent’s substance abuse, whether it involves drugs or alcohol. Such situations rightfully raise alarms about your child’s safety and well-being while away from you. Substance abuse not only raises the risk of physical harm to your child but also of neglect, where your child might face potential harm due to the caregiver’s negligence.

When substance use impairs a co-parent’s ability to think clearly, the risk to your child increases substantially. Should you then disregard court orders to ensure your child’s safety? Adopting a precautionary approach—erring on the side of caution—is often wise. If you believe your child could be placed in a risky situation, your primary duty as a parent is to prevent any potential harm.

If you face a genuine and immediate concern for your child’s safety, consider withholding visitation and request an emergency court hearing to modify your custody orders. This action allows you to address your concerns swiftly, often within days, and present your case directly to a judge. Such a hearing provides a platform to outline the immediate risks to your child’s well-being and enables the judge to assess the need for further protective measures.

Visitation being withheld- where to go from here?

If you are a noncustodial parent facing visitation denial from your co-parent, knowing your next steps is crucial. Start by meticulously documenting each instance where your visitation rights were delayed or denied. Familiarize yourself with the court orders and fully understand your rights. Approaching this issue without a thorough understanding and clear facts about the denied visitation periods won’t suffice.

One simple yet effective strategy is to track the dates of each visitation denial in a notebook or a digital app like Notes on your phone. This method costs nothing and helps build a solid case through consistent record-keeping. Additionally, make sure to be present at every scheduled pickup. Relying on text messages from your co-parent stating the visitation won’t occur isn’t enough; you need to be at the designated location ready for pickup.

texas laws on child support and visitation

After a visitation denial, consider making a small purchase at a nearby gas station, fast food restaurant, or store. The receipt will document your presence near the pickup location at the scheduled time, serving as crucial evidence for your case.

Proving a visitation denial case involves several steps, many of which you can handle independently. However, consulting with an attorney can greatly benefit your family law case. Whether you are the custodial or noncustodial parent, an attorney will provide guidance and protect your rights.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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