Chris Rock: Child Support and Non-Biological Children

After separating from his wife in late 2014, comedian Chris Rock was laughing all the way home from the Courthouse after his divorce was finally granted. However, the Court record has been sealed and speculation remains regarding what the parties may have agreed to with regards to Chris's support obligations, and more specifically, child support. There are two biological children of the marriage, ages 12 and 14. However, there is also a third child who is 8 years old, and a native of South Africa, who began living with the family when she was 6 months old. Sources claim the child was never formally adopted. Though Chris maintains that he is not the child's father, he may still have an obligation to provide child support for her.

In Ontario, a reality of the demographics of modern families means that an increasing number of people are caring for children whom are not biologically their own. The term in loco parentis is a Latin term meaning "standing in the place of the parent", which encompasses family structures where there is no biological relation between parent and child. Under the Divorce Act, a child of the marriage includes children for whom a parent has been in loco parentis.

To test to determine if a parent is in loco parentis is an assessment of many relevant factors as laid out in the leading Supreme Court of Canada case Chartier v. Chartier [1999] 1 SCR 242. In Chartier, the Court determined that whether a parent/child relationship exists must be assessed from an objective perspective. The determination is made by an assessment of various factors including but not limited to:

  • intentions of the parties, both expressed and implied
  • whether the person assumed the rights and responsibilities of a parent
  • how the relationship between the person and child was represented to others
  • whether the person financially supported the child
  • the child's participation in the extended family of the person in the same way a biological child would, and;
  • nature of the child's relationship with their biological parent.

The presence or absence of any one or more of these factors is not in and of itself determinative of whether the parent/child relationship exists. Following Chartier, courts have been flexible with the application of the test and the specific factors within it.

If a person is found to have a support obligation as an in loco parentis parent, they also have rights with respect to the child, specifically the right to apply for custody or access to the child. However, as always with family law, any person's custody or access rights with respect to any child will be assessed in accordance with the best interests of the child.

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