What legal obligations do I have to my step child?

Blended families are more common than ever in Manitoba. According to the 2016 census, one in every ten Canadian children is living in a step-family. However, what happens when a blended family separates? what kind of ongoing legal obligations does a step-parent have to a step-child?

To determine whether a step-parent will have ongoing child support responsibilities for their former step-child, the court will first need to determine whether or not a step-parent stood In Loco Parentis or in “place of a parent” for a child. Where a step-parent is found to have stood in place of a parent for a child, they will potentially be found to be responsible for the maintenance of that child.

Factors the Court considers to determine whether this relationship exists includes:

  • whether the child participates in the extended family in the same way a biological child would have;
  • whether the person provides financially for the child (depending on ability to pay);
  • whether the person disciplines the child as a parent;
  • whether the person represents to the child, the family, the world, either explicitly or implicitly, that he or she is responsible as a parent to the child;
  • the nature or existence of the child’s relationship with the absent biological parent.

Where that relationship has been found, Manitoba’s legislation says that the step-parent has the legal obligation to provide reasonably for the support, maintenance and education of that child, but that obligation is secondary to that of the child’s biological parents. Therefore, where a child is already receiving support from their biological parent, an in loco parentis finding may not necessarily mean that the step-parent owes support.

In Loco Parentis cases are generally complex. If you would like to discuss your scenario please contact our office to set up a consultation with our lawyers.

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