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Separation and Divorce: Child Support

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Who pays child support?

The parent who pays child support is called the payor parent.

Every parent has a legal duty to support their dependent children to the extent that they can. For more information about who is a dependent child, see How long does child support continue?

A parent can be the birth mother or father, an adoptive parent, or sometimes a step-parent.

A step-parent is someone who has treated their partner's children as members of their own family. It does not matter if the partners were legally married to each other or living common-law.

But a court is less likely to order a step-parent to pay child support as more time passes since they had a relationship with their partner's child. This is especially true if the step-parent's social and emotional relationship with the child has ended.

More than one parent can have a legal duty to pay child support for the same child. For example, if a child's birth parent and step-parent separate, the other birth parent and the step-parent might both have to pay child support.

A biological father usually has a legal duty to support his child financially. This is true even if he never married, lived with, or had an ongoing relationship with his child's mother. If a man says he is not the biological father, a court can give him a chance to have a blood or DNA test to find out. If he refuses to take the test, a court might assume that he is the biological father. This is called a declaration of paternity.