Do Step-Parents Have A Child Support Obligation In Ontario?

a father and a son are working together at the kitchen table

Did you know that your partner’s child is considered yours even if you haven’t legally adopted them or married your partner? This rule by Ontario law states that step parents can’t terminate their relationship with step-kids, especially if the kids are left without support and in a complete state of uncertainty.  

So to answer your question, yes you might be obliged to pay for child support in Ontario. Also, the child’s parent first makes an application for spousal support from the step-parent. Beyond that, the parent is required to prove you and your step-kid had a relationship that makes it eligible for child support.

However, this obligation is a bit complicated and you have to meet certain criteria to make child support payments. Let us explain…. 

3 factors that a play in determining if you’re obligated to pay child support for step-kids in Ontario: 

1. Length of the Relationship

If you as a step-parent lived with the child for a considerable period, particularly during the child’s formative years, you are more likely to be considered responsible for support. The longer the relationship, the stronger the presumption of a parental role. The Ontario Family Law Act also has the same rule for step-kids of common law partners. If you made necessary arrangements to treat this child as a member of your family, you might have to pay for support. 

a mom and son are laying on a bed with an electronic tablet

2. Your Role of the Step-Parent

In many cases, step-parents do take on the role of a parent, which includes providing emotional and financial support. Post separation, the courts may determine that continuing this support is in the best interest of the child. Then, as a step-parent, you continue to be involved in the child’s education, extracurricular activities, and overall welfare.

Canadian law set out a few factors to help determine a step-parent’s involvement in a 1999 case – Chartier v. Chartier. These include: 

  • Did the child engage with the step-parent’s extended family like a biological child?
  • Did the step-parent financially provide for the child?
  • Was the step-parent involved in disciplining the child?
  • Did the step-parent explicitly or implicitly act as a parent to the child?
  • How strong was the child’s relationship with the absent biological parent?

It also includes a clause for children who’ve immigrated to Canada and were sponsored by a step-parent for permanent residency or citizenship. However, this clause is implemented on a case by case basis. 

3. Any Existing Agreements

If a step-parent has explicitly agreed to provide support and mentioned it in prenuptial or cohabitation agreements, then rest assured they are enforceable by law. 

How is child support calculated for a step-parent? 

Typically, a step-parent has to pay lower child support compared to a biological parent. It is calculated using the Federal Child Support Guidelines using their income and child’s needs. Ontario courts have admitted that there “is a lack of clarity or consistency as to the approach to take”, so they determine the payments on a case to case basis. 

If you are a step-parent and asked to pay child support, make sure you consult with a lawyer first. Our child support lawyers at Sterling Law in Brampton are here to support you. Please reach out to us for a free consultation. (up to 15 minutes only).

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