When a stepfather will be found to be a parent to his stepchildren and therefore owing child support.
The parties had a relatively short marriage, spanning 17 months. During that time the mother believed that the stepfather acted in the place of a parent to her two children from a previous relationship and was seeking child support on that basis. The children’s biological father was not in the picture. The mother testified that the father was involved in the children’s lives in many ways including cooking family meals, grocery shopping, household cleaning, outdoor grounds work and taking the children to extracurricular activities. The mother noted the children called the stepfather “dad”, a fact which was confirmed by the stepfather but he insisted that the mother prompted the children to commence doing so.
When signing cards, the stepfather often wrote “love, Dad.” Additionally, the stepfather’s surname was used when possible for the children, such as at the YMCA and church.
Child 1 was autistic and essentially non-verbal. The mother provided evidence of a special relationship between he and the stepfather, including assistance with his bed and bath time routines, swimming lessons, trips to the park and vacations. The mother noted that child 2 had a close relationship with the stepfather as well, which included sharing meals, taking him to hockey and skating, to the park and on vacations. The stepfather denies considering the children as his children and denied any closeness beyond providing supervision and only when directed by the mother. The mother and stepfather both presented witnesses.
The court had no difficulty concluding that the stepfather treated the children as his own. Not only did he marry the mother knowing full well that he was marrying into a family unit, his own words in cards to the children indicated his intention to be a father to them. Additionally, he made his role as a father to the children known to his family and the community, referring to the children in comments such as “I love both my boys” and referring to himself as a “new parent to two boys.” Further, the stepfather admitted to discussions regarding adopting the children and doing research on same. The judge noted that the stepfather also disciplined the children, facilitated their extracurricular activities, and used his surname when signing the children up for activities. Based on these facts, the judge found the stepfather to be a parent to the children and therefore the children were entitled to be supported by him.
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