Step by Step: Does a step-parent have to pay child support?

The biological parents of a child have the primary legal obligation to financially support their child under the Child Support (Assessment) Act (“CS(A)A”). The CS(A)A places no obligation on anyone else other than the biological parents.

In some appropriate cases, however, the duty to financially support a child may be imposed on a step parent by an order of a Court under the Family Law Act (“FLA”)[1].   The “maintenance liability” imposed on the step parent may then be registered with the Child Support Agency [2] which will then collect child support from the step parent.

The step parent’s duty to maintain a step child is always secondary to the obligation of the biological parents and does not remove the responsibility of the biological parents.[3]

When may the legal liability on a step parent arise?

The Court must consider various matters including:

  1. the attempts made by the applicant to obtain financial support from the other biological parent;
  2. whether there are circumstances why the applicant may be exempted from seeking child support from the other biological parent;
  3. the length and circumstances of the relationship between the applicant and the step-parent;
  4. the relationship that has existed between the step-parent and the child;
  5. the arrangements that have existed for the maintenance of the child; and
  6. any special circumstances which, if not considered in the particular case, would result in injustice or undue hardship to any person.

If you are a step-parent and want to learn more about your rights and obligations, or if you are a parent wanting to seek payment from a former partner or spouse, you can contact one of our experienced family law team to discuss your matter further.

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[1] Sections 66D and 66M of the Family Law Act 1975.

[2] Pursuant to the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988

[3] Section 66D of the Family Law Act.

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