Two Times When A Stepparent Becomes Responsible For Child Support Payments

Posted on: 1 December 2022

Because they are not biologically related, stepparents generally are not required to pay child support to their ex-spouses for stepchildren, even if they did financially contribute to the kids' care during the marriage. Like many things, though, there are rare times when a stepparent will be ordered to pay child support for stepchildren, and here are two of them.

They Established a Parental Relationship With the Child

Stepparents are expected to develop good relationships with their stepchildren. It makes parenting them much easier when there's mutual love, trust, and respect. If your relationship with the child significantly interferes with or completely takes over the biological parent's legal rights and responsibilities, though, you could be held liable for paying child support.

The most common way this occurs is when a stepparent adopts the stepchild since the biological parent is literally signing over their parental rights to the adopter. However, this can also occur even if you informally take on the parental role.

For instance, you raise the child from infancy so that they depend completely on you for support (emotionally and financially). The courts could rule you are the de facto parent and order you to pay child support, especially if the child's biological parent(s) can't provide for them.

It's important to consult with a family law attorney about how the nature of your relationship with your stepchildren will impact your financial responsibility to them and help you negotiate the best outcome for all parties involved.

Not Paying Would Cause Undue Harm to the Child

Another way you could be required to pay child support is if withdrawing your financial support would cause undue harm to the kids. This typically occurs in cases where the children's biological parent is unable to take care of the kids without the stepparent's money.

For instance, one parent stays at home to take care of the kids while the stepparent earns the income for the entire household. Because the biological parent has no independent income or job prospects at the time of the divorce, the court may order the stepparent to pay child support until the biological parent can acquire enough income to financially support the kids on their own.

In most cases, this arrangement is temporary, but it could become permanent in certain situations, such as the parent or child suffering from a disability. It's critical you work with a family law attorney to ensure you aren't paying child support for longer than is absolutely necessary.

For help with child custody and support issues, contact a local family law attorney.