Step-parents often take on many of the responsibilities of biological parents when they become part of a family. But is one of those responsibilities the payment of child support for any step-children in the event of a divorce?
In New York the answer depends on two factors:
- Availability of support from the non-custodial biological parent and
- Whether the lack of child support from the step-parent would result in the child requiring public assistance.
One New York court summed up the financial obligations of step-parents this way:
“We note that biological parents have primary responsibility for child support; stepparents are responsible only if the support from the biological parents is insufficient to keep the child off public assistance.”
Matter of Monroe County Dept. of Social Servs. v. Palermo, 596 N.Y.S.2d 252 (N.Y. App. 4th Div. 1993))
The “primary responsibility” that biological parents have to support their children means that as a practical matter a parent seeking child support from a step-parent needs to make efforts to get support from the biological parent first. In Palermo, the appellate court concluded that the trial court “did not abuse its discretion in deferring the question of stepparent support pending efforts by petitioner to obtain support from the children's fathers.” Id.
But even if all efforts have been made to get a biological parent to provide child support, New York courts still will not order a step-parent to provide child support unless the lack of such support would result in the child having to obtain public assistance to meet their basic needs.
Section 415 of the New York Family Court Act provides that if a child under the age of 21 is a recipient of public assistance or is likely to become in need of public assistance, the child’s step-parent has a duty to provide a “fair and reasonable sum” for the support the child.
If you have questions or concerns about child support obligations, please give Clement Law a call at (212) 683-9551 or fill out our online form to arrange for a consultation. At Clement Law, we provide trusted counsel and effective advocacy to individuals in New York and New Jersey going through the transition of divorce. We look forward to assisting you.