Stepparent ordered to pay child support

In a very unusual case, a stepparent has been ordered to pay child support for two stepchildren.

The mother in this case was a lawyer who gave birth to twin boys in 1998. The biological father wasn’t a part of the boys’ life and never tried to claim custody. The mother married another man in 2005 and moved to Pennsylvania. The mother and the stepfather separated when the twins were 11 years old; they divorced two years later, but they informally shared custody while the divorce was pending.

When the mother decided to move to California with the children in 2012, the stepfather filed an emergency lawsuit asking for custody and an order preventing the mother from relocating. He argued that he stood “in loco parentis” (in the place of a parent) regarding the children. A judge sided with him, and ordered that the couple have shared legal custody.

The mother responded by filing a claim for child support. But the stepfather fought it – arguing that he couldn’t be made to pay child support because he wasn’t the boys’ father.

The case went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled that the stepfather could indeed be ordered to pay child support.

This is a very unusual case – ordinarily, a stepparent doesn’t have to pay child support even if he or she has developed a very close bond of love and affection with the children. But here, the stepparent had gone a step further – he had filed a lawsuit seeking to acquire all the legal rights of fatherhood. In such a case, the court said, it was fair that he should be saddled with the responsibilities of fatherhood as well.