Co-parenting can be a challenging experience for many people.

Here you are stepping into a situation that already has dynamite written all over it, because someone is threatened that you will replace them, with their kids.

Any parent would be troubled in such a situation.

This is especially true if there is an abrasive relationship between the stepparent and the biological parent who is the ex-spouse.

That is why it is important to go into this situation with a full awareness and sensitivity.

The Threat of a Step Parent

No matter what the situation is a parent-child relationship is special.

Where divorce occurs, there will be problem areas because feelings are hurt, children are suffering from ill effects and parents are just some times not on amicable terms. As a stepparent, it is not meant for you to make the situation worse.

However, if you can make the changes less stressful, your blended family will be healthier.

What is Your Legal Responsibilities?

So, when you get over those hurdles, there is a necessary understanding of what is your legal responsibilities to your stepchild. Many stepparents just assume that they might have to feed, clothe and shelter this child, but there can be more that is required.

Think about what your role will be if there is a medical emergency.

Think about if years from now you split up with the biological parent after forming a bond with this child.

Will you be granted access to them?

Divorce and separation can cause adults to become illogical and vengeful. So today, we are going to discuss some of the responsibilities of a stepparent and what does liable mean.

What Does Liable Mean?

When someone is considered liable, it means that they are called to account as the primary cause, motive or agent responsible for something or someone.

There were no legal requirements for a stepparent to support their stepchild under the legislation in the United States. However, this has changed.

Legal Responsibility of Step Parents While Married

Over the years, different States have passed laws to alter this. So your responsibilities, under the law will depend on the State you live in.

The Courts understand and clarify that biological parents have a duty to provide for their children’s needs. However, due to the development of a relationship between stepparents and stepchildren, they do not ignore their obligations as well.

Over 20 States in the US, stipulate that a stepparent must support their stepchild, at the time that the child resides under their roof.

But, this is often not an issue until the biological parent is not able to fulfill their obligations.

So if you reside in these States below, the rule will apply to you. They are Vermont, South Dakota, Oregon, Oklahoma, North Dakota, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Missouri, Maine, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Kentucky and Iowa.

So your legal obligation is summed up in this statement. “Where the parents are unable to provide a minor child’s minimum needs, a step-parent or a person who cohabits in the relationship of husband and wife with the parent of a minor child shall be under a duty to provide those needs. Such duty shall exist only while the child makes residence with such step-parent or person and the marriage or cohabitation continues.”

Legal Responsibility of Step Parents after Divorce

Unless you have a marital settlement agreement that is signed by you and stipulate that you will pay child support, you are not liable for your stepchild.

And this law is in effect across all States.

However, under the Estoppel Doctrine, a biological parent can have that law overthrown if stopping your fiscal contribution will cause some harm or negative altered state to the child. But in order to do so, there are three elements that are taken into consideration by the Courts.

This includes Representation, Detriment and Reliance.

The first is where a non-biological parent has legally taken custody of the child. Detriment is if a stepparent prevented the biological child from receiving any kind of support from the biological child. And Reliance occurs when the child is fully dependent on the stepparent.

So, if all three are found to be true in a stepparent child support court case of this nature, then the court is likely to rule that said parent continues to be liable for the stepchild.

As with any legal cases, there can be further complexities to these stepparent cases. Therefore having legal representation is helpful in working out these issues.

Again, these cases will be different in their outcomes and pursuits depending on the State that the family resides in and where the case is tried.

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