In Loco Parentis: Child Support Obligations for Step-Parents

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Blended families are becoming the norm.  Did you know that as a step-parent you could be required to support your step-children in the event of separation?  Because child support is viewed as the right of the child, the court has broad jurisdiction to impose a support obligation on step-parents who stand “in loco parentis”, which is the legal term for “in the place of a parent”.

Determining whether a party is in loco parentis is a contextual exercise, with various factors being considered, including the closeness of the relationship between the step-parent and the child, the permanence of the relationship, the step-parent’s involvement in the child’s life both during and after the relationship and the child’s need for support. It is important to be aware that the obligation to pay support survives the relationship, and accordingly, a step-parent cannot avoid their child support obligation by withdrawing from their relationship with the child. In addition, child support can even be ordered by a step-parent even where support is being paid by the biological parent.

If you are a step-parent, we would welcome you to schedule a free initial consultation with us to discuss the potential implications of your role and how to protect your interests.