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Impact of Visitation on Child Support in Child Custody Disputes


Maginnis Howard no longer practices family law. We currently practice personal injury, medical malpractice, consumer cases relating to credit or harassing phone calls, and wage and hour cases.

When a parent is granted child custody, the other parent has a legal right to visitation. Visitation is basically a lesser degree of child custody. “Exclusive custody,” which denies the other parent visitation, cannot be awarded unless custody is detrimental to the best interest of the child or if the parent forfeits the right to child custody by wrongdoing. In North Carolina, the duty of a parent to support their children is not dependent on the parent’s opportunity to exercise visitation rights. The primary purpose of visitation is for the benefit of the child. When visitation does not occur, both the child and noncustodial parent suffer. Even so, if the parent with primary custody prevents the noncustodial parent from visiting with the child, that parent cannot withhold child support payments because this further harms the child.

Restrictions on visitation rights cannot be used as a punishment to the parent. If a court denies a parent visitation, there must be written findings of fact that the parent is unfit for visitation or that it is not in the best interest of the child to have visitation. In Wake County, most judges are reluctant to deny visitation rights to a parent unless there are significant reasons to do so. Even if visitation is not denied outright, a court must make specific findings of fact to justify severely restricting visitation. In awarding visitation, a judge can include a wide array of provisions to serve the best interest and welfare of the child. A judge can order both parents to cooperate with each, to refrain from making negative comments about the other, or prohibit interference with the other party’s relationship with the child.

Occasionally, when the court enters or continues an order allowing a child to visit a parent living outside of the state, it may require the nonresident parent to post a bond until the child is returned safely. This generally occurs when the court has reason to believe that the parent may attempt to withhold the child from the parent. If you are ordered to allow your child to visit an out-of-state parent or grandparent, and you feel the child may not be returned, contact an attorney to set up the proper protections.

The judge has broad discretion in child custody and visitation matters. As such, it is critical to have an attorney that understands the various laws and standards and can effectively advocate for you. Having a skilled and professional attorney can have a significant impact on your relationship with your child after a separation.