Q Do I have to let my ex see our 4-year-old son if he's behind on child support? He does see him regularly, two or three times a week and every other weekend, but has been out of work and is so behind on his support payments that I think it's wrong he sees our son so often. What's good ex-etiquette?

A Visitation and child support are two separate issues and it's very bad ex-etiquette to hold your child as hostage until Dad pays up.

You, of course, are not alone in your feelings that support and time with a child relate, but legally, they really don't. You can't prevent your son from seeing his father because Dad's not paying support. Plus, you have to consider how your child will be affected. Your son is used to being with his father almost 50 percent of the time and now, because you are frustrated that Dad cannot pay, you are proposing that it's not in your child's best interest to spend time with his dad. Very short-sighted. I just hope you are not saying anything to your son about his father's inability to pay. Child support should not be your child's concern and should never be discussed with him.

So what can you do to get your child support payments? Truth is, if Dad's not working, not much. Lately I have heard from exes on good terms who said they barter for home repairs, yard work or car repairs and they report that took off some of the burden for a while. But if child support is court-ordered, agreeing to something in lieu of support may not affect the amount of support owed. Get legal advice first.

If Dad has been out of work for a while, he may want to petition the court for a reduction in support so that the back payments don't continue to mount. That may not make you happy, but you did ask "What's good ex-etiquette?" The first rule: Put the children first.

Jann Blackstone is the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at drjannblackstone@ gmail.com.