Do Stepparents Have to Pay Child Support?

Family walking on path

Child support is the right of the child and ought not to be bargained away by parents.  However, there are some unique rules for stepparents.  Under Part 7 of the Family Law Act, a stepparent (defined in section 146) is liable for support of a stepchild if:

  1. the person is a spouse of the child’s parent,
  2. the person has lived with the child’s parent and child for at least one year, and
  3. the application has been made within a year of the last support provided.

This is the case, even where the stepparent has specifically opted out of the parenting duties and has not stood in the place of a parent. Courts are required by the Act to put the best interests of the child before all else and are not bound by parental agreements that disentitle a child to support for which it would be eligible.

The stepparent’s obligation for support is secondary to that of the biological parents, so it may not be required unless it is reasonably requested or ordered. The amount of child support is to be seen in light of the standard of living experienced by the child during the stepparent’s relationship with the parent, with the duration of payments is to be commensurate with the length of that relationship.

As there is a fair amount of latitude in the amount to be paid by a stepparent, depending on the available resources and duration of the relationship, it is best to consult with a lawyer upon separation.

In the collaborative process, this is an area that can be discussed together between you and your former spouse, with the assistance of your collaborative lawyers, taking into consideration both the law and your family’s unique circumstances.

Written by Lisa Dewar (Collaborative Lawyer)

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