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In some cases, stepfather may be liable for child support

Monday, December 11, 2017

Every legal rule can be anticipated to have some exceptions. The law seeks to be flexible and rearrange its principles with the changing needs and circumstances of the times. One general rule in family law is that a stepfather will not be liable to pay child support to the biological mother. The rule, however, may possibly be modified in Texas and other states to impose child support obligations on a stepfather when certain facts are present.

A stepparent who aggressively fights for child custody and is awarded a shared custody arrangement by court order can also be required to pay child support, according to the highest appellate court of a large eastern state. The mother had twin sons born in 2008. She married the stepfather and after  the separation in 2009, the stepfather entered into an informal shared custody agreement regarding the twin boys with the mother.

The stepfather also filed a few years later to prevent the mother from leaving the state with the two boys. The court issued an order granting equal shared custody and prohibiting either party from leaving the state without prior approval. The mother later filed in the county court for an order of child support against the stepfather.

The family law court rejected the mother's petition, and the appellate court agreed with the lower court. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed and held that a stepfather who aggressively fought for shared custody could be liable for child support. The holding created an exception to the general rule that child support cannot be imposed on stepfathers.

The Court explained that the exception to the general rule would tend to assure that only those who are truly dedicated to a permanent relationship with the children will come forward. This family law holding applies a common sense and logically consistent approach to the facts. It may be followed by the Supreme Court of Texas under similar circumstances.

Source: pennlive.com, "Stepparents who 'aggressively' fight exes for custody can be liable for child support, Pa. Supreme Court rules", Matt Miller, Dec. 29, 2015

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