Can unpaid child support affect visitation rights in Washington?

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2024 | Child Support

In Washington, non-custodial parents have a legal obligation to pay child support. These critical financial contributions help meet the child’s needs, such as education, health care and basic necessities. When these obligations aren’t met, a common question arises: Does non-payment of child support affect visitation rights?

Both custodial and non-custodial parents should understand that it doesn’t directly impact visitation. However, failing to pay child support does carry legal consequences.

Separation of child support and visitation rights

In Washington state, the legal system views child support and visitation rights as two separate issues. Courts view child support as a financial obligation crucial for the child’s welfare. On the other hand, visitation rights preserve the emotional bond between the child and both parents.

Whether the parent is up to date on payments or not, the child still needs emotional support and a relationship with both parents. So, even when a non-custodial parent fails to pay child support, they still retain their right to visitation.

However, this does not mean that the non-payment of child support carries no consequences. While it doesn’t directly affect visitation rights, consistently failing to meet child support obligations can lead to serious legal trouble.

Consequences of unpaid child support

If a non-custodial parent isn’t paying the child support they owe, the parent who has custody has options. They can take the problem to family court and submit a claim for unpaid child support. In response, the court may take necessary action. The court could decide to garnish the non-paying parent’s wages, impose property liens or even sentence them to jail.

But remember, this legal action addresses only the unpaid child support issue. It does not directly affect the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights. Any changes to these visitation rights would need to be handled in a different legal process.

Assert the child’s rights

Both parents must ensure their child has everything they need to thrive, even when they are no longer together. This includes not only financial support but also emotional support, as both are crucial for the child’s well-being. If one parent falls short in fulfilling these duties, the other parent has the right to seek help from the legal system. However, this process can be complex and difficult to handle alone. In such cases, consulting with a legal professional can be helpful.