New research seeks to shed light on a subject that often comes up when talking about divorce and paternity: the connection between how well a father pays his child support and how often he sees his children.
By law, child visitation and child support are two different issues. Mothers who have primary physical custody of their children can't withhold visitation privileges based on whether or not the fathers pay up.
So what keeps some men from seeing their kids? The answer may be far more complicated than most people realize.
Overall, the study indicates three factors that may explain, or even predict, the father's likelihood to pay support on time: the quality of his relationship with the mother, the amount of time he works per year, and his mental health.
Fathers who don't pay support are generally less educated and work less than their counterparts that do pay, but they're also more likely to have children with multiple women. These additional factors probably affect the relationships the men have with their children's mothers in adverse ways.
Ultimately, it may affect the children in adverse ways as well. According to the study, children who aren't receiving financial support from their fathers also aren't receiving emotional or "in-kind" support either. The fathers don't engage with the children in typical bonding activities, like playtime and helping with the homework. Nor do they provide their children non-cash support in the form of clothes, toys, medication or other items.
Earlier studies indicate that child support is more likely to be paid when there are formal custody and visitation agreements in place--something that may be lacking if the mother and father were never married and have an informal agreement regarding support.
Given the tie that seems to exist between paying support and maintaining an actual connection to the child, it may be wise to consider formalizing any support agreement regarding your children. The legal penalties that can be imposed when non-custodial parents fail to live up to their obligations may encourage them to pay up, and paying support may encourage them to maintain a stronger connection to their children.
For more advice on how to handle a child support issue, it may be wise to consult with an attorney.
Source: Journalist's Resource, "Fathers see their kids less often if they owe child support," Denise-Marie Ordway, Feb. 17, 2017