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Step-parenting Obligations for Child Support

What’s yours is mine. Including the step-children. As long as you “stand in the place of parents”, you are obligated to pay child support when your marriage goes sideways.

How Did You Become Liable for Child Support?

Canada’s Divorce Act makes you responsible for any “child of the marriage”. The in loco parentis test includes your biological children and your partner’s. Ontario’s Family Law Act is similar. A “settled intention” to treat a step-child as part of your family makes you liable for child support. Expect to support your step-children until they are at least 19 or no longer dependent on you.

When Carol Met Mike 

When Carol Martin met Mike Brady, they hit it off quickly. Soon after, Greg, Peter and Bobby Brady moved in with Marcia, Jan and Cindy Martin. The blended Brady Bunch lived happily ever after. But if Carol and Mike had divorced, they both would have been responsible for child support. Since Mike the architect made more than Carol, he would have paid the higher share.

Why You Can’t Just Walk Away

Your marriage may have soured. But that doesn’t allow you to just withdraw. Ontario courts look at your relationship with your step-children from the moment you became a family unit. That’s to reduce the impact of divorce on children. It ensures step-children can expect your relationship as their parents will continue long after you are no longer married. The fact you separated or divorced doesn’t allow you to ignore your step-children’s needs.

Were Your Intentions Parental?

Your intentions matter most. Do your actions show you acted as a parent? You could be standing in place if:

  1. Your step-child was treated the same as a biological child.
  2. You provided financial support.
  3. You disciplined the child as a parent.
  4. You told family and others you were their parent.

The child’s relationship to their absent biological parent counts. Your step-children’s opinions will also get due regard. But they are only two of many considerations.

What About Adopted Step-children?

Adopting step-children shows serious intent. But you can be deemed a parent without adopting. Courts apply the in loco parentis test liberally. Your actions speak loudest. Caring for a child physically, financially and psychologically demonstrates you were a parental figure. 

Does it Matter How Long the Marriage Lasted?

When you’re a pre-schooler, even a few months is “a substantial portion” of your life. If you took the children to church, included them in family outings with your own children, attended parent-teacher meetings, coached their baseball team or deducted them on your taxes, they’re yours. No matter how long the marriage lasted.

Can Anyone Be a Parent?

They can. Even grandparents have been ordered to pay child support.

Ask How Step-parenting Affects Your Rights

Talk to an Axess Law lawyer before you separate or divorce. Our experienced divorce lawyers can answer all your step-parenting questions. You can make an appointment at 1-647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. Family lawyers are available 7 days a week, at your convenience. You can talk to us remotely by phone, email or video call.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.


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