Your husband may not be biologically related to your children, but he has been like a father to them throughout your marriage. In fact, he might be the only father they’ve ever known.
Now that divorce is on the horizon, you may wonder if it is possible to get child support for your children from their step-father. The good news is that the answer may be yes. The bad news is that “yes” is highly qualified.
America’s New Reality
The question of whether a step-father or step-parent should be financially responsible for step-children even after a divorce is taking on increasing importance as we continue to see a rise in blended families. According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of married individuals have previously been married. We also live in a world where 40.3% of all births are to unmarried women.
In this world, step-parents often take on a significant role in the lives of their step-children, especially men who are more likely to be the primary provider in the family. Let’s look at how this responsibility toward step-children may last after marriage.
When Step-Parents Aren’t Responsible for Their Step-Children
If you are counting on your husband to provide child support for his step-children after divorce, you need to prepare yourself for disappointment. In most cases, step-fathers are not required to pay child support for step-children after a marriage.
With that said, there are three ways that you can potentially receive child support.
Adoption, Birth Certificate, or Judgment of Paternity
If your husband took legal action to accept responsibility for your children, then he will be required to maintain that responsibility after the end of your marriage. The most common form this takes is the step-father legally adopting your children. He could also choose to sign a child’s birth certificate acknowledging that he is the father even if he knows that he is not the child’s biological parent. Finally, he could sign a “Judgment of Paternity,” acknowledging that he is the child’s father.
Agreement to Child Support
If your husband has a very close relationship with your children, he could choose voluntarily to pay child support as part of your divorce settlement. This may happen if your husband played a large role in raising your children and if they consider him their central father figure. Be aware that your husband may ask you for some custody or visitation rights in return for child support payments.
Estoppel Doctrine and Equitable Paternity
The justice system in the United States is interested in protecting a child’s wellbeing. In some circumstances, if you can show that your husband presented himself as your children’s father, that they rely on him financially, and that you have no means of receiving support from their biological father, a judge may determine that your husband is legally required to continue providing financial support to your children regardless of the fact that he is not their biological parent. This is known both as the Estoppel Doctrine and Equitable Paternity. It can be difficult to prove equitable paternity.
Please remember that this is not intended to be legal advice. We strongly advise you to seek the advice of a divorce attorney to determine if you have a chance of receiving child support from your children’s step-father.
Our thanks to WIFE.org for providing this information.