Maintain a spreadsheet showing dates and amounts of child support paid or received
Officially, a custodial parent cannot bar a non-custodial parent from enjoying joint custody or visitation rights because of his failure to pay child support. Nor can a non-custodial parent refuse to pay child support because the non-custodial parent habitually interferes with his right of visitation. Still, the amount of support paid, and the frequency and timeliness of the payments, are factors that can be used to help or to harm a non-custodial parent’s rights in Family Court.
Both parents should set up spreadsheets to track the child support payments being made. For the custodial parent, a spreadsheet maintained on Excel, Quatro, or other software programs can provide a ready resource of the non-custodial parent’s payment history. Does he abide by the child support order? Does he pay on time? Does he pay the right amount? How much are his arrearage? An up-to-date spreadsheet often provides more timely and accurate information than court-run online databases that are not regularly updated. A custodial parent, relying on her handy spreadsheet, could argue against an expansion of the other parent’s visitation rights based on his poor payment history. “I object to the Defendant’s motion,” your honor. “He claims to be devoted to the children, and to prioritize their interests, but in the last two years, he’s violated your child support order 16 times, missed 7 payments, and amassed arrearage of more than $4,0000.”
For the non-custodial parent, a spreadsheet can also provide a valuable defensive device. Not only should regular support payments be recorded by date and amount, but it is also helpful to record the date of mailing of the support payment, and, if possible, the date the check was paid or cleared by the custodial parent’s bank. Cash payments of support (while not a good idea in general) should also be recorded on the spreadsheet. Non-support payments, such as a one-time purchase of a baseball uniform, should also be noted. By charting this information on a regular basis, a custodial parent can effectively defend himself against unreasonable objections to expanding his custody and visitation rights. If support payments are made on a timely basis, the spreadsheet will function not only as a shield, but as a sword – providing the court with additional proof of the non-custodial parent’s dedication to the children’s best interests.