Separation and Divorce: Child Support
Who pays child support?
All parents have a legal duty to financially support their dependent children. A parent can be a birth parent, a non-birth parent, or an adoptive parent. They could also be a step-parent or a person who has a parent-child relationship with the child.
The parent who pays child support is called the payor parent.
For more information about who is a dependent child, see How long does child support continue?
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.
Parents must support their children even if they:
- do not live with the children
- do not see the children
- are not married to the other parent
- did not live with the other parent
- did not have an ongoing relationship with the other parent
- have other children from a previous or new relationship
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 lived with or 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.