In Family Law, the concepts of child support and child access are dealt with separately. There is no connection between the two. The courts do not award access based upon support being paid, nor do they punish non-payment by preventing access. It is important to keep this in mind when problems with child support payments arise.
Even though you might be angry and upset because you are not getting the support you need to help financially support your minor children, you cannot deny access based upon non-payment of child support. If you do, you risk being held accountable by the courts if your ex-spouse complains and commences a proceeding in family court.
This is especially so if there is an existing order or agreement. In addition, they could seek to alter the existing custody agreement, potentially asking that they be made custodial parent because you not honouring your end of the agreement. Access is considered a right of the child.
Regardless of the reason your ex-spouse is not paying the agreed-upon support, they still have a financial responsibility for their children. Your best recourse is to consult with an Ottawa family lawyer to discuss your options. Leave the enforcement of child support payments to professionals. In Ottawa, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) can help enforce payments using various methods, such as:
• Garnishments of tax refunds, earnings from a job, or other types of payments.
• Reporting non-payments to credit bureaus, which will affect your ex-spouse’s credit.
• Seizing assets and/or financial accounts.
• Suspension of passports and/or driver licenses.
What If the Non-Custodial Parent Cannot Afford the Court Ordered Support Payments?
For non-custodial parents, they have an obligation to continue to make court-ordered payments until such time they can request a reduction. A reduction in payments can be agreed upon between the custodial and non-custodial parent and settled outside of court, or taken to court where a judge will rule on the request.
Payments cannot be stopped, pending a reduction, unless the recipient consents. Stopping child support payments could result in one or more of the above actions being taken by the FRO. Keep in mind the Courts will generally follow Child Support Guidelines, so support will be dependent upon income.
Can I Stop Payments if the Custodial Parent is Preventing Access?
By the same token, if a custodial parent blocks access for any reason, non-custodial parents cannot stop paying support, even if their ex-spouses are preventing access to the children. Again, the law views child support and child access as separate issues. They need to be addressed separately.
If the custodial parent is not allowing you access to your children, you need to consult with your divorce lawyer and let them know the situation. They can file a motion in family court to bring this issue to light so it can be resolved using the proper legal channels. If there is an order for access, denying access can be seen as a contempt of court issue, or parental alienation- both serious issues.
Whatever you do, continue to make support payments as agreed upon. If you decide to stop paying, you could actually hurt your case because the courts do not favour parents that take matters into their own hands and breach their support agreements. Courts can show their displeasure of any breach of an order by ordering costs against the offending party.
If you have further questions about reducing child support payments, non-payments, not being given access, and other family law matters, please feel free to contact Davies Law Firm at (613) 688-0462 to schedule a consultation appointment today.