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Does visitation and custody affect child support?

Custody and child support are closely related issues under Missouri law. The payment of child support can be affected by visitation and custody in a variety of ways, but there are important limitations that parents should be aware of. While understanding how the two relate is important, it is also important to keep in mind that only the court or the family support division can order changes in child support based on custody changes, and the amount of support does not change until it is so ordered.

The primary way in which child support is related to custody involves how much time the child spends with each parent and how custody was originally divided. Since child support is considered the non-custodial parent's means of providing their share of support for the child, then payments may be lower in a joint custody situation where the child spends roughly equal amounts of time with both parents. By contrast, child support is likely to be highest in cases where one parent has little or no contact with the child. A period of child support may also be canceled if the custodial parent gives custody of the child to the non-custodial parent for more than 30 days.

One important restriction to keep in mind is that a parent may not deny visitation because the other party has not paid or is not paying child support. Under the law, parents do not have to pay for visitation. It is a right granted to them by the court.

A parent may enforce their right to visitation regardless of how things stand with child support. If a parent is not making the child available for visitation as ordered, then the other parent may wish to discuss the situation with an attorney. A custodial parent can be penalized with a reduction in child support income if they are not making a good faith effort to provide for visitation.

Source: Missouri Bar, "Child Support in Missouri ", December 30, 2014

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