In certain cases, a person who is not a biological parent of a child may be deemed to be a parent in the eyes of the law, and therefore may be responsible for the financial support of the child. For example, a step-parent who has been involved in a child’s life may be responsible for supporting that child in case of a separation or divorce.

The following are some of the questions considered by the court in determining whether a parent-child relationship exists:

  • Does the child participate in family activities in the same manner as the biological children?
  • Were the children all treated the same?
  • Were financial provisions made for the child? (For example, were the child’s expenses paid for out of a joint bank account?)
  • Does the parent in question discipline the child?
  • Does the parent in question represent to the child, family, or others, either implicitly or explicitly, that they are a parent to the child?
  • What is the nature of the relationship with the absent biological parent?

The court will look at the specifics of the situation and nature of the relationship between the alleged parent and the child to determine if that person is in “locis parentis” (factors as noted above). The child’s perspective is important, but is not definitive. Ultimately, a non-biological parent cannot unilaterally terminate a parental obligation once it has been established.

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