Child Support Obligations Towards Stepchildren

As most people are aware, in Ontario parents are legally obliged to provide financial support their biological children up to the age of majority (and – depending on the circumstances – sometimes beyond).  However, in the modern era in which divorce and subsequent remarriages are not uncommon, the question will often arise as to whether a new second spouse has an obligation to support any stepchildren that were brought into subsequent marriage by the other spouse.

The key to this determination lies in the definition of “children of the marriage”, a term found in the federal Divorce Act which includes “any child for whom they [i.e. the spouses] both stand in the place of parents”.   With this definition in mind, if the second spouse meets the test for “standing in the place of” a parent, then he or she may be liable for support for a stepchild, despite the lack of any biological connection between them.

The new spouse’s liability for support will accordingly depend on the circumstances, and will involve consideration of various factors such as: the relationship between the second spouse and the stepchild; the stepchild’s residence (e.g. whether he or she is living with the parent and the step-parent), and whether the second spouse’s relationship with the stepchild’s parent is ongoing.  Still, there is no set formula that can be applied; for example in a case called Brown v. Laurin, [2004] O.J. No. 5233 (S.C.J.), a stepfather was ordered by a court to pay child support in connection with two children, even though they had gone to live with their biological father.

In short, each case will be determined on its own unique facts; it is therefore vital to get reliable legal advice that is tailored to your particular situation.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation in relation to child support in Ontario.  Contact us to set up a free consultation.

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