Child Support Is Owed, Even if She Denies You Visitation
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson, I’m a Dads’ rights attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Child support. Child support is owed, even if she denies you visitation. When a mother denies a father’s visitation for no good reason, the father might believe that he can use child support as leverage to get time with his child.
After all, in contract law, when one party breaches a provision of the contract, often the other party is relieved from his or her obligations. Moreover, in representing Oklahoma fathers, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about a mother denying visitation, only to later show up asking for money, allowing visitation, and acting as nothing happened.
But when a child support order is entered, a failure to pay is contempt of court, and the denial of visitation is no defense, but it’s even worse than that. Although child support and visitation are both court-ordered and for each a failure to follow the other, the order is contempt of court, many courts treat these contempts very differently.
First, courts do not police and enforce their own orders. In order for a contempt allegation to be heard, one of the parties must file an application for a contempt citation, then set it for arraignment and later trial.
After that the court can rule on it as it believes is appropriate, but unlike visitation enforcement, when it comes to child support, mothers frequently get help. DHS is often an interested party in child support cases and regularly monitors and enforces the child support obligations in its cases.
So when there is a visitation breach, you have to draft and file the contempt and pay the court filing fee. But when you were behind on your child support, it is often DHS and not the mother that does all of the work. The DHS attorney doing this does not represent the mother, but the mother receives most of the benefit of the DHS attorney representing the state.
Second, often courts prioritize the setting of child support contempt set over all other matters. For example, in Tulsa County, there is a special weekly docket just for child support contempt set hearings. They call it the rocket docket because it moves much more quickly than standard court dockets.
It goes from filing a contempt arraignment to trial in as quickly as 60 days. Attorneys defending dads can sometimes slow the process, but it is still going to be substantially faster than the quickest visitation contempt. On the rocket docket, the judge regularly throws dads in jail for missing child support payments, or sometimes even for being late on them. I have seen unrepresented fathers go to jail for being a little behind on child support, even when the mother is asking to keep him out of jail so he can keep his job.
Compare that with a visitation contempt, which is set on the family law judges’ normal docket with everything else and can take up to a year to get a trial date. You don’t have to go it alone. The solution is that fathers must be proactive.
Delay is deadly to your case, so you’re going to have to lawyer up fast. If your financial situation changes and you’re unable to pay the full child support, you need to file to modify the child support order immediately.
By law, child support cannot be modified retroactively, so every day you wait to file is another day that you’re obligated to pay more than you can afford. Delay under this circumstance sets you up for being a defendant on the rocket docket.
This is a downward spiral that you want to plan to avoid. If you do not have an attorney on retainer or have a credit card available that you can use for emergencies, consider asking a family member or friend who can help you pay for an attorney.
Because paternity matters tend to arise when you were least likely to be able to afford it, preparation is necessary. If you do get behind on child support and find yourself on the rocket docket, your attorney will need documentation regarding your income or an expense is in order to demonstrate to the court that any delinquency is not willful, but is instead due to financial inability. When the mother dies your visitation, you also have to act fast. The longer that goes by, the more your relationship with your children is diminished, the more time the mother has to alienate them from you, and the more difficult it is to enforce the visitation order.
Don’t just file a contempt citation against the mother and wait a year to get a trial date. Make regular documented demands for your visitation time using pleasant language, of course, to avoid giving her an excuse to file a frivolous protective order, and file a motion to enforce visitation under Oklahoma statute, Title 43, section 111.3. This statute, unlike contempt, requires a hearing within 21 days of filing.
So although the rocket docket enforcement of child support contempt is faster by default, a proactive father can get a motion to enforce visitation to an evidentiary hearing faster than the rocket docket can get a child support contempt to trial.
Custodial mothers have a statutory duty to facilitate the father’s court-ordered visitation, so do not let her off the hook by sitting on your rights. Get a lawyer on your side and start exercising your parental rights as soon as possible, and if you need a lawyer for either of these situations, then you should go to dads.law immediately, and talk to one of our attorneys about the particular facts of your situation. My name is Brian L. Jackson, I am a Tulsa dads’ rights attorney, and we’ve been talking about child support and visitation today.