For many stepparents, their new partner’s children are as much a part of their new family as any of his or her biological children. Stepparents can help fill a parental role in their stepchild’s life, and often form lasting familial bonds with their stepchildren.
When a stepparent and a biological parent separate, any children involved in the relationship may feel as traumatized by the loss of their stepparent as they would their biological parent. This is especially true when a stepparent began raising the children from a very young age. In some situations, the relationship between the child and the stepparent may be so strong that a court may order that stepparent to pay child support.
In most divorces, stepparents are not required to pay child support for their stepchildren. Washington law focuses on making sure that the biological parents of a child cover his or her financial needs first. As a result, the times when a stepparent can be ordered to pay child support are limited.
The first circumstance involves stepparents who adopt their stepchildren. When this happens, the stepparent will have all the rights and responsibilities of a biological parents when it comes to parenting time, child custody, and child support. If the adoptive stepparent does not retain primary custody of the children, then it is likely that he or she will need to pay child support.
If the stepparent has not adopted his or her stepchildren, he or she may still be ordered to pay support. If the children resided with the stepparent as their primary place of residence, and the children depended on the stepparent for support, then the stepparent may be ordered to continue to support their stepchildren.
If the children did live with their stepparent, the both the stepparent and the biological parent may have an obligation to financially support the children. During the divorce, incomes from both the stepparent and the biological parent will be used to support the children at least on a temporary basis.
In most cases, a stepparent’s obligation to support his or her stepchildren will end with the divorce agreement is finalized. Once the divorce is complete, most stepparents will no longer owe child support. In some cases, this responsibility could be terminated earlier if the court finds good cause.
When a child has bonded with a stepparent, a divorce or separation can be extremely emotional. In considering whether or not a stepparent should be ordered to pay child support or even be granted visitation rights, a court will look at the child’s best interests and make a decision which protects the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we take a child’s bests interests seriously and will help your family work out a plan that works best for your family. Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if necessary, our knowledgeable Washington family law attorneys will take your side and help your family through difficult situations.
If you would like more information about child support, visitation rights, or any other family law issue, call 509-572-3700 to schedule your appointment at Pacific Northwest Family Law today.