When I see my very soon-to-be ex-husband and he hasn't paid child support (which happens quite often) it is so, so hard to not say "You shouldn't get to see your kids if you haven't paid."
It's just human nature to connect the two issues and it is only exacerbated when you are going through a highly contentious divorce.
The past year has taught me that his time with our children is not connected to his unwillingness or what he refers to as being "not in the position to pay."
He chose to leave our family to move in with his mistress and her five children -- one of the children being his biological child conceived while we were still married -- and this is why he is "not in the position" to pay.
Despite his deception and fundamental selfishness, it is important to understand that visitation with his children and paying child support are very separate issues. Here are the three main reasons, according to my opinion:
1. None of the negative "reasons" or "issues" associated with the divorce, even lack of child support, are the children meant to deal with. My two young children love their Daddy and deserve to have a relationship with him even if he does scoff at the idea of financially supporting them. My children struggle with their father no longer being part of their daily lives and would be even more devastated if they never saw him again. That is a fact, and it is the reason the court system continues to encourage co-parenting and visitation for fathers and their children. No matter what I think of my ex, he will always be their father, whether he pays to support them or not.
2. There are strict laws about enforcing child support for a reason. The courts feel very strongly that fathers need to provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of majority.
Although involving the courts, or your state Child Support Enforcement office, is exhausting and stressful, you need to rely upon them to enforce payment. My ex's wages are now being taken from his biweekly paycheck which he hates with a passion, but that method keeps me and, more importantly, the kids out of the battle.
This was not the case when he was paying me directly (on his terms), and when he fell behind in paying as well as trying to significantly lower the amount he pays weekly, the court system enforced the child support formula and he was informed that if he continued to not pay, he could face losing his driver's license and possible jail time. If the father of your children is not paying child support, pursue it through legal channels.
3. There are no laws enforcing visitation. That is, there are many laws related to developing visitation plans that need to be followed, but they do not require that a father actually spend time with his children. This is the part of divorce law that completely frustrates me.
The law is designed to make sure that fathers financially support their children, but there is no law that makes sure fathers spend time with their children. For example, my ex and I went through mediation to develop a visitation schedule. I can be held accountable legally for not having the children available during his scheduled time. Conversely, he can cancel, reschedule, not show up, or otherwise forfeit his time with the kids without any repercussions. Thus, if you go back to the first reason to keep support and visitation separate, the children deserve and want a relationship with their father. If the courts took away visitation rights because the father isn't paying, it would only further damage father-child relationships.
Acceptance of all of this is not easy and it is still a big struggle for me personally. My ex continually chooses the needs of his "other family" over his first-born children, but through court mandated co-parenting counseling, I have learned that I cannot control that. My children don't know any of the issues that have to do with money, the "reasons" for our divorce, and why Daddy can't be around as much. However, they will eventually know where their father's priorities are, and that is on him and his choices. All I can do is love them and let them know how much both their father and I love them, and it is not their fault that any of this his happening. Therefore, it is important more than ever to not link child support and visitation for my children's emotional well-being, and future relationship development with their father and his other family members.
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