Is a Stepparent Required to Pay Child Support?

It’s common for stepparents to assume a certain degree of financial responsibility for their stepchildren in a blended family. But is a stepparent legally obligated to pay child support?

In New York, a stepparent generally has no responsibility to pay child support for a stepchild unless they have adopted the child. Nonetheless, a stepparent may have a financial obligation to a stepchild if the child’s biological parents cannot provide enough support to keep the child off public assistance.

Section 415 of the New York Family Court Act provides that stepparents have a responsibility to contribute a “fair and reasonable sum” to support children under the age of 21 if the child is a recipient of public assistance.

Stepparents do not have primary financial responsibility for their stepchildren, however. In the Matter of Monroe County Department of Social Services v. Palermo, 596 N.Y.S.2d 252 (N.Y. App.4th Div. 1993), the petitioner (the county) argued that the lower court had incorrectly decided that a stepfather was not immediately obligated to pay child support for his needy stepchildren. The appellate court disagreed. The court ruled that because the petitioner had not attempted to recover support from the children’s biological father, the trial court had not abused its “discretion in deferring [the] respondent’s obligation to support his stepchildren.” It noted that biological parents have the primary responsibility for child support.

A stepparent’s legal obligation to provide child support to stepchildren ends when the marriage ends.

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