You don’t have to pay child support if you’re not allowed to see your child. That was the essence of a recent ruling by a New York appellate court which relieved a father of his child support obligations because his ex-wife continuously prevented him from seeing their son.
In Matter of Coull v. Rottman, the father had asked the court for an order enforcing his visitation rights or, in the alternative, relieving him of his child support payment obligations. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision to deny the father’s petition for visitation, largely based on the 13-year-old child’s testimony that he did not want to see his dad. However, it granted his request for a suspension of child support payments.
The court relied on evidence that the mother’s interference with a regular schedule of visitation resulted in what a forensic evaluator called a "pattern of alienation” between the father and his son. Additionally, the court relied on the fact that:
- The evaluator was unable to complete her evaluation because the mother refused to consent to the evaluator's request to speak with mental health providers or school officials, and the child did not appear for his interview.
- After the father's last visit with the child, the father continued to go to the exchange location on visitation days for several months. On one occasion, the mother and child appeared, but the mother said the child would not come out of the car.
- On other occasions, neither the mother nor the child appeared, nor did the mother communicate with the father.
- The father was never told about the child's medical needs or that the child had been hospitalized until after the fact, nor was he advised of any information about the child's school or school events.
- The mother, who represented herself before the Family Court, assumed an inappropriately hostile stance toward the father and witnesses who testified in his favor.
- The Family Court noted in its decision that the mother stated "many times, that she will never allow [the father] to see the subject child and that she would do whatever it takes to keep the subject child away" from him.
While the facts in this case were unique, it does link child support obligations to a custodial parent’s interference with the payor’s visitation or other parental rights.
If you have questions or concerns regarding child support, custody, visitation or any other matters pertaining to divorce, please give New York divorce and family law attorney Danial Clement a call at (212) 683-9551 or fill out our online form to arrange for a consultation. We look forward to assisting you.