Paying Child Support for a Non-Biological Child

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Are The Determining Factors For Child Support Payments?

State laws governing child support payments can vary by jurisdiction. When determining child custody rights, child custody law places the child’s interests and background over any of the parent’s personal preferences. This is known as the “child’s best interest standard,” which is the general standard for child custody cases. This means that courts will only make child custody decisions if they benefit the child.

As such, if a parent is considering how to get custody of a child or become a custodial parent, they must prioritize the child’s best interests because this is what the courts will do during the custody hearings.

When determining child custody, a family court will consider a wide range of factors that could affect the child’s well being. These factors will be balanced against the child’s best interest standard, in order to ensure that the custody decisions do not harm or negatively affect the child or children in any way.

Some of the most common child custody factors that are used by courts in a divorce or legal separation context include, but may not be limited to:

  • Each parent’s relationship and history of interactions with their child;
  • Whether one parent has been the primary caretaker of the child;
  • The child’s background and adjustment to their home, school, and neighborhood;
  • The mental and physical health of the child, as well as of both of the parents;
  • Whether the child has any specific health, medical, or psychological/emotional needs;
  • The wishes of the parents, as if both parents agree to a specific custody arrangement, the court will generally choose that arrangement; and
  • The child’s wishes, as if the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the courts will give strong weight to the child’s preferences when they are old enough to express such wishes.

If the child has special medical needs, the court will factor this into their determination regarding custody orders. It may be the case that one parent is more familiar with the child’s special needs than the other, and as such may be granted more custody rights than the other.

Can A Person Have Child Support Responsibilities For A Non-Biological Child?

When there are legal disputes over child custody, courts will generally award child support payments. The non-custodial parent will most likely be ordered to make payments to the custodial parent, in order to help with expenses associated with raising their child. While this generally only applies to the child’s biological parents, a person can be ordered to pay child support for a non-biological child under specific circumstances.

Biological paternity refers to someone who is the biological parent of a child. Alternatively, legal paternity refers to someone who is legally recognized as the child’s parent and, as such, has parental rights similar to what a biological parent would have. This includes adoptive parents as well as legal guardians. It is important to understand the concept of legal paternity, and how it can impact child support proceedings.

There are some situations in which a person who is not a biological parent is presumed to have legal paternity. An example of this would be how you may be presumed to be a child’s legal father when:

  • You are married to the child’s mother at the time that the baby was conceived or born;
  • You sign the child’s birth certificate as their father, even if you know that you are not the biological father; and
  • You complete a legal acknowledgement of paternity form.

It is important to note that there are situations where a biological parent does not have parental rights, because these rights were legally terminated. An example of this would be where the parent is not involved, and a stepparent decides to adopt the child. The court would terminate the biological parent’s rights to grant those parental rights to the child’s stepparent instead.

Once you establish legal paternity, the law determines that you will carry all the rights and responsibilities associated with being a parent. Additionally, after a person acknowledges paternity, many states will provide a two-year limitation in which to contest or dispute paternity. However, some states provide a shorter amount of time, so knowing your state’s specific laws and procedures is absolutely critical.

How Does Child Support Factor Into The Legal Parent And Non-Biological Child Relationship?

Most states will recognize the importance of a parent-child relationship, even when biological paternity is not involved. Because of this, a legal parent who is not biologically related to the child but has played a significant role in the child’s life may be responsible for child support if they divorce or separate from the child’s biological parent. Other terms for this would be “equitable paternity,” and “parentage by estoppel.”

Additionally, this broadens the potential circumstances of when someone could be considered a legal or equitable parent. If you and the other parent had a close familial relationship in which you parented the child and lived in the home, you may be considered an equitable parent in a legal context. Another example of this would be how if you held the child out as being your own child, you may be considered an equitable parent.

To reiterate, this will vary between the states and will largely depend on the circumstances of your relationship with the child. However, a court could deem you to be a legal parent, which could make you responsible for future child support payments.

Can The Courts Enforce Child Support Payments For Non-Biological Parents?

Check your state’s child support guidelines for more information about when equitable paternity could apply. Some factors that could factor into this decision include the following:

  • You financially supported the child for a significant amount of time;
  • You emotionally supported the child for a significant amount of time;
  • You lived with the child and their other parent; and
  • You helped make important parenting decisions, such as where the child would go to school or what medical treatment the child should receive.

All of this information could support a case for equitable paternity if you are not a biological or legal parent of the child. As such, this can make it difficult to avoid child support payment mandated by court order. However, it is important to note that this will also support a case for you to have custody rights, which means that you could fight for shared custody or visitation rights.

You could also attempt to establish someone else’s biological paternity as a defense to making these payments. However, if you acted as a father figure to a child by exhibiting all or some of the traits discussed above and if the biological parent was never involved in the child’s life, the court may still order you to make the child support payments if you separate from the child’s mother.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Child Support For A Non-Biological Child?

If you are experiencing issues associated with paying child support for a non-biological child, a child support lawyer in your area can thoroughly evaluate your situation and explain why you could face child support payments for a non-biological child. Your attorney can also help you fight for shared custody or visitation rights, if that is something you want, and will also be able to represent you in court as needed.


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer