The Obligations of Standing in the Place of a Parent

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The Obligations of Standing in the Place of a Parent

Last month’s article provided information about what happens when a person stands in the place of a parent with their partner’s child or children.  The article listed the factors that the Court looks at to decide whether or not an adult meets the threshold of standing in the place of a parent.

If the Court does find that enough of those factors exist, what implications does that have for the adults and for the child?  This finding can result in the Court making a number of orders with respect to the custody, parenting and child support for the child or children involved.

It would be rare for the Court to make an Order for ongoing parenting of a child by a step-parent against the wishes of the step-parent.  However, if the step-parent wishes to have an ongoing relationship, the Court will often make an Order to give the step-parent parenting time with a child.  We see this most often where there is also a child of the relationship and the step-child will continue to have time that is similar to that of the biological child.

Often the issue which causes the most disharmony between the adults when they stand in the place of a parent to each other’s children, is the issue of child support.  The person who stands in the place of a parent can be required to pay child support, sometimes even if they do not continue to have a relationship with the child after the relationship with the child’s parent has ended.  It is important for step-parents to understand that the end of the relationship with their partner, does not end their responsibilities to their partner’s child or children.

The payment of child support by the step-parent should not mean that the biological parent gets a free pass.  Indeed, the case law, the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act all seem to indicate that the biological parent has a duty to pay child support as well.  The Family Law Act also provides for DNA testing in cases where the identity of the biological parent is unknown, and allows for a biological parent to be added as a party if child support has not been sought from them.  The Family Law Act clearly indicates that the biological parent’s duty to contribute to child support comes before the step-parent’s duty.

Before embarking on a relationship with a partner who has children from a previous relationship, it is important to realize what your obligations and responsibilities might be, if you separate from that partner.  If you are unwilling to commit to a continuing obligation to pay child support if the relationship breaks down, you should seriously contemplate whether partnering with someone who already has children is the right choice for you.

Catherine Regier
Catherine Regier helps you navigate the turning points of life. She is a partner with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP. Contact Catherine at (403) 527-4411 or at