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It is not unusual for divorced couples to struggle with obligations such as child support and visitation schedules. It is also tempting to link these obligations in your mind. For instance, if one ex-spouse withholds or alters child custody, the other ex-spouse may retaliate by delaying child support payments – or vice versa. This is a mistake, according to the best child support lawyers, because the court views these obligations separately.

A parent’s obligation to pay child support continues no matter what the relationship between parents or between parent and child. Do not stop paying child support even if the child is not available for your scheduled custodial time, as the consequences for you are often dire.

What should you do if your ex-spouse is not following the court-ordered custody schedule? You may take this matter directly to the court, but it is advisable to first take the matter to your family custody attorney to learn about your options. It is always best to explore all of your options for resolving the matter before taking the court’s time and attention and incurring more legal fees than necessary.

If custody is strained due to changing needs as the child grows up, it may be worth a discussion of the custody schedule with the ex-spouse. Every schedule is based on the individual needs of the child and family, and good divorce lawyers can help you formulate a custody schedule and get agreement to it from the other parent. Different custody schedules include:

  • Alternating weeks of custody;
  • Overnight visits every other weekend;
  • One weeknight visit per week;
  • One- to six-week visits during school breaks and summer;
  • Special holiday and birthday custody schedules; and
  • Any other reasonable schedule that works for the parents and children.

A delay in child support might be due to a parent being laid-off from a job. If there is a legitimate change in circumstances, you may seek a formal modification of child support. This petition can be taken to the court that issued your child support order. Discuss this with your attorney rather than simply stopping the child support payments. The consequences of nonpayment are serious and can include losing your driver’s license or even serving jail time.

Child Emancipation

An older child may request emancipation from a non-custodial parent. The court will consider the age and maturity of the child before granting emancipation. The age of 16 may be considered appropriate, but this will vary by state and by court. The court will ask the child to express his or her reasons for requesting emancipation and may also consider whether the child has had a job or is a good student.

Other reasons for emancipation might include marriage to an older spouse, military service, abandonment of the parental home, and economic independence of the child (the child is an entertainment or sports celebrity for example).

It seems as though emancipation for any reason would end the parent’s child support obligation, but the court must formally relieve the parent of this obligation. Courts are reluctant to terminate child support obligations due to concerns that the state later may need to support the child financially.

Graduation from High School or Becoming an Adult

A parent paying child support is usually not obligated to continue to pay support once the child graduates high school or becomes an adult in the eyes of the state, but the parent should get the support obligation formally terminated by the court rather than just stopping payments.

If you are struggling with terms of custody and/or child support agreements, be sure to sit down with an experienced attorney from Perna & Abracht LLC before you take any further action.