2 Rare scenarios when stepparents are forced to pay child support

Love and money - both have different connotations in the life of stepparents and stepchildren. Love is an emotional feeling whereas money is a necessity without which stepchildren can’t survive.

These children suffer immensely - both physically and emotionally, even when a divorce is an amicable one. Love can heal their emotional wounds whereas money can help them to build a stable future for themselves.

But what about stepparents? Do they also need to take care of stepchildren that come along with a marriage? Love is an emotional feeling. One can’t force stepparents to love their stepchildren. But what about their financial responsibility? Do they’ve to look after the financial needs of stepchildren as well? Are they required to pay child support as well?

Let’s find out.

Scenarios when stepparents have to pay child support

Stepparents aren’t directly responsible for the financial liabilities of children. They don’t have any legal duty to financially support kids, unlike biological parents. However, there’s a likelihood depending upon certain scenarios:

Scenario 1:

Stepparent’s income has dropped the biological parent’s expenses

Dad and mom have parted ways. They’re now estranged couples and living separately. The court has already given the child support orders after evaluating the financial situation of dad and mom.

A few years have passed. Dad has married another woman who is doing well at work. Dad’s financial situation has become better since stepmom earns well and shares his expenses too.

After analyzing the total situation, mom files a motion at court. She asks for a higher child support since dad’s living expenses have decreased since stepmom contributes towards family expenses as well. He can afford to pay a bigger amount for child support.

The court will look into the state laws and then decide if mom has a valid case. If it’s proved that mom does have a valid case, then the court may explore stepmom’s income sources up to a certain degree.


In Connecticut, child support laws usually don’t include stepmom or stepdad’s income while calculating biological dad’s income for child support expenses. However, the court may look into the regular contributions or gifts from a spouse if there has been a noticeable drop in a parent’s income or expenses due to such contributions.

Scenario 2:

The custodial parents are unable to financially support kids

There are around 20 states wherein stepparents are legally obligated to pay child support when stepchildren are living in the same house. In some states, these laws are enforceable when custodial parents aren’t able to pay child support. For instance, in Delaware, stepparents have a legal duty to pay child support when biological parents are unable to fulfill even the basic needs of children. Of course, this law is applicable when a stepparent is living in the house as a husband or wife with the biological parent of the minor child.

Here’s a list of the states wherein stepparents are legally required to provide financial support to children during marriage:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. North Carolina
  3. Vermont
  4. Maine
  5. Kentucky
  6. North Dakota
  7. Nevada
  8. Washington
  9. Oklahoma
  10. New Jersey
  11. Oregon

Stepparent - Are they financially responsible post-divorce?

Stepparents can’t brush-off financial responsibilities when children would suffer financially. This happens basically under 3 conditions and these are:

  1. The stepparent plays the role of a parent and takes care of the child’s financial needs.
  2. The stepparent looks after the financial needs of the child.
  3. Stepparent hampers the bond between the biological parent and the child. Plus, he/she curtails child’s ability to get financial help from that parent.

The bottom line

Stepparents can’t brush-off their responsibilities towards children just like that. If they’ve been married to the biological parents of children and have provided child support maintenance for minimum 1 year, then the court may ask them to pay child support. If the stepparent refuses and a case is filed against him/her, then the court will check the last date when he made the contribution. If it’s within a year from the date when the case has been filed with the court, then he/she has to pay child support.

Don’t miss out - Sweet and sour money management tips for stepfamilies

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