You are not the Father: In Loco Parentis
Step-parents can be held responsible for paying child support. The term “in loco parentis” is Latin for “in place of a parent” and this is the term used by the courts for step-parent. This term is used in situations involving a person who is not a biological parent, but has taken on responsibilities for the child, like a parent would.
A biological parent must support their child financially, and after separation this often involves the payment of child support to the primary parent. A biological parent also has rights to determine where the child lives, how the child is to be raised and various decisions with respect to education, religion and medical decisions. In the same way, an individual who is found to be In Loco Parentis to a child, may have financial responsibility for that child, and the right to participate in decisions with respect to that child. Therefore, a step-parent / a person who is In Loco Parentis, can be held to the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent.
Often times, the biological parent will bring an action for child support against the party who acted as a parent, or vice versa. This can happen regardless of the perception of either party. For example, the biological parent may never have thought that the other party should be viewed as a parent, and is surprised to find that the other individual may have rights to the child, including participating in decision making. Likewise, an individual may also be under the assumption that they would never be considered a parent, and would never have financial responsibility to the child after their relationship with the biological parent ended.
The “test” which is stipulated in the Family Law Act, is that a person is standing in the place of a parent if he/she was either married to or in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence, with the parent of the child and had demonstrated a settled intention to treat the child as the person’s own child. Demonstrating a settled intention to treat a child as your own is a factual analysis.
When determining whether or not someone is In Loco Parentis to a child, the Court will examine the specific circumstances to determine if the individual in question acted as a parent to the child. Some of the factors that a Court may take into consideration are:
- The length and nature of the relationship between the parties to the action, including whether or not they were married.
- The longer and more permanent the relationship, the more likely that the individual would treat the child as their own.
- The relationship between the child and the party in question.
- This includes an examination as to the extent the person was engaged in the child’s daily life. For example, did the person participate in child care duties or extracurricular activities.
- The Court will likely examine whether or not the individual disciplined the child, as a parent would.
- Whether the party in question contributed to the financial support of the child during the relationship.
- If both parties were contributing to the financial support of the child during the relationship, the more likely a Court will find this arrangement should continue.
- The timing of the court application for child support.
- The longer the biological parent takes to make a claim for support, the less likely that a Court will find an entitlement.
- Whether the child participated in the extended family of the party in question.
- If the child engaged with the individual’s extended family, similar to how their own child would have, it is an indication of a settled intention to treat the child as their own.
- Whether the person represents to the children, or third parties, that they are responsible as a parent to the child.
- If an individual tells third parties that the child is theirs, it is likely that they intended to act as a parent. Another indication would be a representation to the child, that they are their parent.
- Whether the person considered adopting the child.
- If the individual suggested adopting the child, or changing their last name to that of the individual, this demonstrates that the individual anticipated the “parent relationship” would be permanent.
- The nature or existence of the child’s relationship with their biological parents.
- If the child already has a strong relationship with both of their biological parents, it is less likely that the individual intended to step into the shoes of a parent.
The lawyers at Crossroads law have experience in handing these types of step-parent claims and can help you understand what rights and responsibilities may arise out of your situation. Please contact us today for an appointment.