It's too easy to get confused about what child support covers and what it doesn't cover in the Rhode Island Family Court so it is better to understand at least Three Important fundamentals as a starting basis. Those child support and visitation are much deeper issues than these three issues, they will help you with a good start to understanding child support and how it relates, or does not relate to visitation in Rhode Island Divorce and family court cases.
1. Usually Child Support will include child care for one or more minor children if that child care is necessary for one or both parents to work in order to support their child or children associated with the family court matter containing the child support for that particular child. Note: This does not mean that if you have another child that is not the subject of the family court proceeding and you have had the child with another person that if you need the childcare because of that secondary child, that you are entitled to childcare expenses from the father of the first child.
2. Too many parents seem to believe that Rhode Island Child Support is tied to visitation and that payment of Child Support is payment for the right to the parent who is paying that Child Support for the right to see the child or children. Wrong! The two are not reliant on each other. For instance, if a father is denied visitation with this children, he has no right to stop paying child support for his child or children. Similarly, if a mother is not paid child support for the children she has placement of, she may not deny the father his rightful visitation. The recourse for either party is to file a Motion to Adjudge the Parent in Contempt who is denying him or her his right to child support or visitation under the court's orders. Denial of visitation or child support is not proper recourse. By denying child support payments in response to lack of visitation or by denying visitation for lack of child support payments places you in a contempt of court position where you are directly defying the court's orders of visitation and child support. Child Support does not pay for visitation rights and a parent can't be denied his or her visitation Rights for failure to make child support payments.
3. Child Support is an entitlement of the "child" and NOT the "placement parent." Therefore, child support cannot be waived by a parent. Parents are supposed to protect the interests of their children and the underlying principles of the family court are such that a parent is NOT considered to be protecting a child's right to child support from both parents by trying to waive it. Attempting to waive child support in a Rhode Island Family Law proceeding may actually cause the family court to question whether you are a fit parent to look after the child's interests if you want to try to waive a minor child's right to being supported by one or his or her parents. Child support may be "left open" which is essentially "undecided for the moment" by the Family Court but capable of being opened/determined at any time by either party or by the court if there is a substantial change of circumstances.
For Child Support to be "left open", the court must have a strong reason or justification that is usually testified to under oath at court by one or both of the parties that justifies leaving the child support open (i.e. the non-placement parent does not pay child support) usually for the benefit of the entire family unit. Another instance may be a large offset in a divorce settlement which justifies that a parent has paid "in kind" child support by virtue of the settlement terms and therefore it is appropriate to ask that child support be "left open." However, you should realize that there are limited instances in which the family court judge or magistrate will exercise his or her discretion to diverge from the Rhode Island Child Support Guideline adopted by Federal and Rhode Island law and the court will carefully scrutinize the reason for the request that child support "remain open"
It is a bad idea to simply plan on asking the court to have the court leave child support open per a marital settlement agreement and expect the court to rubber stamp the agreement. You could be asking yourself for a kick in the butt by the judge and told to get a lawyer because you have no idea what you are asking.
Child support can be a complicated aspect of family court matters. Always ask that it be explained if you represent yourself and make sure you read the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines and understand them. If you bind yourself to more than you can pay because a lawyer or someone else has told you that you won't do better and yet you don't understand it, you may dig yourself a whole you can't get out of.
Be careful! You are the best one to protect your own interests! If you don't care enough to be informed and to get the help you need, especially when it relates to child support and visitation, then many people would say.... you get exactly what you deserve. As for me, I just encourage you to be informed and to seek out at least some professional help from a licensed attorney. $145 and an hour or your time could save you thousands of dollars just in a single year alone.
Tomorrow I will include a short update on what child support is expected to cover so placement parents don't have unrealistic expectations.
All my Best to All Who Go Before the Rhode Island Family Court,
I am Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach."