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When parents use visitation time, child support as weapons

Of course, few divorces are rancor-free, but in extreme cases, the spouses cannot get along well enough to co-parent once the proceedings are over. Probably the worst cases are when divorced parents use the children as pawns to “get back” at their exes.

Too often, the mother is granted full child custody in a divorce case, then prevents the children’s father from having his rightful visitation time. Fathers who are denied access to their kids may have to go to court to get their rights enforced. It may also be possible to adjust the custody plan to make it more balanced.

In response, some exasperated noncustodial fathers stop paying child support to try to get their visitations resumed. Whether this is in the children’s best interests is debatable, but it may be legal after a New York court of appeals decision from Sept. 2, according to the New York Law Journal.

The case involved a man who stopped paying child support after his former wife stopped bringing their son to the exchange location for his visitation time, or otherwise refused to make the exchange. She told her ex-husband that she would do “whatever it takes” to keep him from seeing his son again. An expert witness called the ex-wife’s behavior a “pattern of alienation.”

The man went to court to enforce his visitation rights, and get his child support obligations suspended. The trial court denied both, but on appeal the child support was suspended. However, the appellate court granted the ex-wife’s petition to suspend the father’s visitation rights, noting that the boy, now a teenager, opposed seeing his father.

This would be an unsatisfying result for many fathers, but things usually do not get this far. With an experienced divorce attorney, a parent is usually able to work out a reasonable custody arrangement with his or her ex.