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Separation and Divorce: Child Support

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Who must pay child support?

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, click here. 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 spouse's children as members of their own family. It does not matter if the spouses were legally married to each other or living common-law. But the more time that has passed since the step-parent had an ongoing relationship with the child, the less likely it is that the court will order the step-parent to pay child support. This is especially true if their social and emotional relationship with the child has ended.

More than one parent could 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 support for the child.

A biological father has a legal duty to support his child financially. This is true even if he was never married to, lived with, or had an ongoing relationship with his child's mother. If a man denies that he is the biological father, a court can give him a chance to have a blood or DNA test to find out. If he refuses, a court may assume that he is the biological father.