The arrangement had been that, at least for a while, in lieu of paying all of the child support, mom was going to pay the orthodontist bills. With four kids, three in braces and another one about to get them on, that was a significant chunk of money and everyone had agreed to the arrangement until the parties decided to meet again. Just to let you know, I was not a mediator for that agreement but loved its creativity in numerous other aspects as well. That is the great thing about mediation - being able to get creative. Unfortunately, the agreement was not clear as to what would happen as the braces came off and there were no more bills, but I digress.
When these parents came to me, dad had stopped letting mom see the children at all. Mom had, at some point, stopped paying the orthodontist bills and child support per the prior agreement. Which came first? Honestly, I didn't care who "started it."
Most of us, even as children, understand the concept of giving to get. If you want to watch TV, you have to clean your room. If you want dessert, you have to eat your veggies. If you want that video game, you have to do chores. Life is a constant series of giving to get. Paying to obtain. Back and forth. So can a parent keep a child away from the other parent if one is not paying as agreed? Does the parent who pays child support have the right to stop paying if the other parent will not let him/her see the kids?
Obviously, children do have rights. There are child labor laws, laws regarding supporting children, laws regarding abuse of children, etc. In other words, they are human beings and not objects. They do not "belong" to someone like a vehicle, house, etc.
So if a parent stops paying their child support, can the other parent refuse to let the non-paying parent have their parenting time? The short answer, is "no."
Although states may vary in how they handle non-payment of child support, Colorado has some basic laws and "punishments" in place for violators.
Motion for Contempt - Remedial and Punitive
* Ask court to place the other parent in jail until he/she pays some or all of the past due child support
* Non-payment does not have to be proven to be intentional but merely that child support was not paid
* The purpose is to remedy the situation and get the other parent to pay past due support
* Ask court to punish the other parent for purposely refusing to pay child support
* Ask the judge to sentence the other parent to jail time and/or impose a fine, whether the other parent catches up on child support or not
* For the non-compliant parent to be given jail time or a fine, it must be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the non-compliant parent had the ability to pay child support but refused to do so
Both remedial and punitive contempt may be filed in the same motion. You may also ask for the costs and attorney's fees you obtained in trying to enforce the court order with regard to child support.
* Garnishment of bank accounts
* Liens on vehicles
* Force the sale of personal or real property
* Garnishment of income
Additional earnings can also be seized such as:
* Lottery winnings
* Tax returns
* Unemployment compensation
* Income from gambling
What happens if you do not allow the other parent their parenting time will be discussed in the next blog of this continuing series.