Normally, a divorce that involves a child will require an agreement on child custody and child support. Things are different if that child is your stepchild though. Custody would obviously go to their biological parent, and it is unlikely that you would have to pay any support at all. If your former spouse is pushing for support anyway, you may need the assistance of a Monmouth County child support attorney from our firm.
Do I Have a Legal Obligation to Support My Former Stepchild?
When it comes to the state law of New Jersey, you do not. It is incredibly rare for a stepparent to be ordered to pay support for their former stepchild after a divorce. This is true even in cases where there is a large gap in income between the stepparent and the child’s biological parent.
You could still end up paying your former spouse though. There is no reason why a judge cannot order you to pay spousal support or alimony. This is especially likely if you were the primary breadwinner in the relationship. So while you are unlikely to owe child support, you will probably have other financial obligations to worry about.
What Does “In Loco Parentis” Mean?
Some people believe that they are going to be required to continue supporting a stepchild after divorce due to a concept called “in loco parentis.” Acting in loco parentis means that you were acting as a parent to the stepchild, in place of their biological parent. This means that you were supporting them in a financial way, an emotional way, or both.
However, you do stop serving as a parent to a stepchild after the marriage ends. That means that you are usually not going to be obligated to support this child. You are no longer married, so you are no longer a stepparent.
What Are My Legal Rights Concerning My Stepchild?
What this also means is that you really have no legal rights concerning your stepchild. You are not obligated to support them financially, but you also have no right to visitation or anything like that. Your relationship with them is no longer something that can be mandated or obligated.
Exceptions apply though, notably in cases where a stepchild adopts their stepchild. If you do this, the state sees your stepchild as your child. You would have obligations and you would have parental rights.
In some other situations, parents understand that a stepparent played an important role in their child’s life. You and your former spouse may be able to work out an arrangement where you can visit with your stepchild, but it is unlikely that any court would step in and mandate such a compromise.
Talk to Our Family Lawyers Today
If you are at all confused about your obligations or the obligations of your former spouse, contact the Law Offices of Geroge J. Mardinly. We can set up a consultation and answer any questions that you have.