Even though that child living with you is not even your biological child, you may be liable to pay child support for a child of your spouse.

In the case of married couples, the Divorce Act imposes a clear obligation on spouses to financially support any “children of the marriage” which include “any child for whom they both stand in the place of parents” as well as “any child of whom one is the parent and for whom the other stands in the place of a parent.” In other words, liability for child support under the Divorce Act arises where you or your spouse assumed a parenting role for the child in question. The courts look at the following factors when determining if a parent/child relationship has been established between spouse and step-child:

(a) the step-parent’s intent to treat the child as a member of his or her family;
(b) the extent of the child’s participation in the newly-formed family;
(c) the nature and extent of any discipline imposed by the step-parent;
(d) whether the step-parent holds out to the child, family and others that he or she has responsibility toward the child;
(e) the nature of the child’s relationship with the step-parent;
(f) whether the child refers to the step-parent as “dad” or “mom” (as the case may be); and
(g) the extent to which the original biological parent (i.e the one “replaced” by the step-parent) has an ongoing personal and financial relationship to the child.

In the case of common law couples, liability for child support arises under the Family Law Act of British Columbia where a spouse has contributed towards the support of a stepchild for a minimum period of one year although a step-parent’s liability to support a child is secondary to that of the child’s biological parent. In determining, liability for child support with respect to a step-child, the courts will look at the following factors:

• The length of the relationship;
• The family’s spending habits;
o Who paid the household expenses;
o The step-parent’s direct and indirect contributions to the child.

Contributions as minor as including a step-child on an employee benefits’ program through work may attract liability to pay child support for a step-child under the Family Law Act of British Columbia.

To determine your liability to pay or your entitlement to claim for a child in a blended family situation is often not clear and only a lawyer familiar in family law principles can provide you with the advice you need.

If you are being asked to pay child support for a step-child or wish to claim child support from a spouse who is not the biological parent of your child, consult Vancouver & Burnaby Family Law and Child Support lawyer/attorney Andrew Rebane at Resolutions Law Corporation, Burnaby, British Columbia andrew@resolutionslawcorp.com or 778-372-7107

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