April 20, 2009

When does a Step-Parent Have to Pay Child Support?

It's a common misconception that only biological parents have a child support obligation when a relationship breaks down. Rather, the law states that where a step-parent or common law partner of someone with a child has been standing in the role of a parent, known as in loco parentis, the court will order that person to pay child support, even though they are not biologically related to the child.

However, child support will only be ordered where the person is found to be a "parent", which is a defined term under the Family Relations Act:

A "parent" includes
(a) a guardian or guardian of the person of a child, or
(b) a stepparent of a child if
(i) the stepparent contributed to the support and maintenance of the child for at least one year, and
(ii) the proceeding under this Act by or against the stepparent is commenced within one year after the date the stepparent last contributed to the support and maintenance of the child;

Section 1(2) of the Act states:

(2) For the purpose of paragraph (b) of the definition of "parent" in subsection (1), a person is the stepparent of a child if the person and a parent of the child
(a) are or were married, or
(b) lived together in a marriage-like relationship for a period of at least 2 years and, for the purposes of this Act, the marriage-like relationship may be between persons of the same gender.

So to summarize, the court will only order a step-parent to pay child support where three conditions are met.

The step-parent:
  • was either in a marriage-like (common law) relationship with the child's parent for at least two years OR married to the child's parent for any length of time; AND
  • contributed to the child's support or maintenance for at least one year; AND
  • last contributed to the child's maintenance or support within one year of the date that the child support claim was filed with the court.

This last point means that if the biological parent starts a court action for child support more than a year after the step-parent last contributed to the child's maintenance, the court will almost certainly dismiss the case because it is after the limitation date in the Act.


  1. So does all conditions have to be met or just one?

  2. check out chartier vs chartier on wikipedia...a well known supreme court of canada case

    whether the child participates in the extended family in the same way as would a biological child;
    whether the person provides financially for the child (depending on ability to pay);
    whether the person disciplines the child as a parent;
    whether the person represents to the child, the family, the world, either explicitly or implicitly, that he or she is responsible as a parent to the child;
    the nature or existence of the child’s relationship with the absent biological parent.

    1. This law is completely out of line. There is NO WAY that a person who lived with someone who had children form a previous relationship should be held responsible for the financial needs of those children unless they formally adopt them. Children are entitled to what their BIOLOGICAL parents can provide them. Thatis it! People who are living common law are being railroaded.

    2. As I understand it from my lawyer, our laws are based on industrial era laws from England that were meant to protect orphans from being "cared for" by an adult who needed cheap labour to run their businesses, then discarded back as orphans when they were no longer useful. So, if you care for a child at anytime in that child's life you are responsible for them until they are an adult. The qualifiers - must have provided support for one year, etc are meant to provide some protection for casual relationships. BUT-this is something many people are not aware of when they enter into a relationship with someone who has children.

  3. Disgusting. Why the hell should anyone who is not the biological parent have to pay anything? It's up to the parents to make sure the child is financially taken care of not us who didn't breed!!

  4. My ex had 3 kids with her ex husband and she's now trying to screw me into paying child support for those kids. Her ex ran off to the States. I already pay support for my 2 biological children. Canadian Laws are complete crap. They use "the best interest" of the child analogy to justify anything. Free money from anybody the kids ever knew should not be the norm. Had I known I would be on the hook for her kids, I would have NEVER gotten involved with her. It's a scam beyond proportions that governments take advantage of people that try to be nice to non biological kids and then get scammed out of money.

  5. my husband has been taking care of my child for 5 years shes only known him she calls him dad and its right that he just walks out her life? He knew from the get he wasnt the dad he took her in and called her his since she was 3 months! shes basically 5 is it fair that he decides he wants to leave and not take care of her? I know im resposible for her but at the same time she has no other man or farther figure but him its not right that a man would do that and unlike some of these stories he took care of her since birth basically ill be damn if you walk out on her cause shes a kid she doesnt deserve that at all he wants to leave me fine but dont do an innocent child that at all and some of yah call yourself men?YOU DONT HAVE TO BE THE BIOLOGICAL PARENT TO BE A FARTHER OR A MOTHER IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD AND A REAL MAN TO STEP UP! A LEADER WITH NO FOLLOWERS IS JUST A MAN TAKING A WALK BUT A LEADER THAT HAS FOLLOWERS AND IS LEADING BY EXAMPLE IS A MAN CHANGING THE WORLD! because of men like this is the reason we have these laws

    1. Where is the child's biological father, why aren't you holding him to that standard? Step parents are not replacements for biological parents. Because you love someone it is unfair that all their choices become your reality when you have chosen to live your life differently. If you have made a choice to have a child you should have the financial capacity to care for that child period.

    2. You haven't given it much thought have you. what happens if you meet someone new, is your new man then going to be the daddy to your daughter! what would happen to your ex then, would you stop him seeing your daughter? what would your new boyfriend/husband think if a man who is not your daughters biological father keep coming round to see her. What if you find someone else and then you split up would he also have access to your daughter, so on and so on. I think it would be better and less confusing for your daughter if she didn't see him again she is young and will forget in time.
      After all how many daddies could she end up with.
      (My daughter in law was a single mother when my son married her, she has broken up the marriage and still wants my son to be the daddy after the divorce. It breaks his heart and mine but IT IS best for the child not to see us anymore as there will eventually be a new 'daddy' on the scene.)

  6. It's a difficult one, and no one really has the right to judge. If an adult gets involved with someone with children that adult should know that he or she is taking on a responsibility. The reality is that children do bond with mother/father figures who are not their biological parents , and all adults have to do is maintain those relationships with the children no matter what the adult relationship becomes. In the end kids shouldn't have to go through losing parent figures because the adults didn't get it right. And I don't agree that because children are small they forget! They don't forget, they feel abandoned and can't express those emotions, all they do is adapt to the situation but suffered abandonment issues later on in adult life. I think this law is fair, and people should be aware of it. If anything it would deter people with false intentions from getting involved with other people's children and destroying those children.

  7. I don't think a step parent should be made to support a stepchild. They have the least to do with the child yet get more affected in a negative way than anyone else. Its very well saying they should assume responsibility when marrying their partners but their partners and other parent know their responsibility towards THEIR own children. Expecting a step parent pick up the slack is so very cheeky.

  8. This sounds very ridiculous..Step parents should not pay child support.They should give gifts ect,bcos they love the children.If there's a divorce,then they should still be in a child's life if they decide too,BUT NEVER BE FORCED TO PAY FOR THEM.
    I have step kids and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!! I buy them gifts,pay for parties,school outings bcos I want too,no enforced by the courts.You have kids,you pay for ur own damn kids.Find the father,Make him support you.

  9. Its a sad thing where people have to go through a divorce. Now when a man or women gets out of what could be a cancerous relationship and tries to recover some normalcy of life, now has to worry about their potential spouse if he/she has kids. Why would any person who went through a horrible relationship feel the trust and comfort knowing that if one day something changes they would be on the hook for a child that was not his. Totally disgusted. Signed, Single to the End.

  10. Conclusion:
    NEVER marry to woman with a child/ children! If you play "Good Samaritan" then the law will PUNISH you!

  11. I am a step father and my step daughter sees her biological dad every second weekend! She is always brings her biological dad contributions in her like more than mine!! She is about 13 years old. Am I liable to support her if my common law relationship ends for any reason manufactured by my common law wife? I have been in the relationship for about 5 years!

  12. Does this law apply in South Africa?
    My common law step dad has supported me for 8 years while my mother was staying with him, mother passed 7 months ago.
    He is now the major claimer on her inte estate and not giving anything to myself and my sister, could i sue for him to then continue paying support

  13. how does the law rule when the biological father is currently paying maintenance for the child whom mother married to another so under certain circumstance the step dad is also divorcing the mother, so is the step father also going to be obliged to pay maintenance?

  14. If a man adopts a woman's child and they split up does he stand a chance at taking that adopted child with him instead of the child staying with their biological mother?


I would love to hear your views on this post so please leave a comment below. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide any legal advice through these comments. If you need legal advice, please contact one of the pro bono resources listed on the right side of the Rights & Remedies blog.