Limited Child Support for Stepchildren
Key Points
  • In loco parentis allows for a non-biological parent, stepparent, to step in and support the stepchild. This support does not hold true once the parents are no longer married.
  • Support guidelines typically do not include any obligation for the stepparent to pay child support past the age of minority. There are only a few states that have laws requiring a stepparent to support the child as long as stepparent is acting in the capacity of a parent. Further, if the stepparent and parent divorce, the stepparent is no longer obligated to support the minor child.

A stepparent has no legal obligation to support a stepchild under common law; however, twenty states (Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington) have statutes requiring a stepparent to support stepchildren. These statutes are codifications of the doctrine of in loco parentis, which holds that an adult who voluntarily acts as a parent assumes the obligation of support, but no statute or interpretation of in loco parentis requires that a stepparent support a stepchild when the stepparent and stepchild no longer live as a family. Of note is the presence or absence of a noncustodial natural parent (who is usually a father) is not critical to establishing an in loco parentis obligation.

Most states do not consider stepchildren to be children of a subsequent marriage in support guidelines.

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