Can You Receive Child Support if a Child Was Not Legally Adopted?

By Teo Spengler

Child support is financial aid one parent pays to the other as a contribution toward the food, shelter, medical care and other necessities for his minor children. Although currently courts mandate child support payments only for biological or adoptive parents, an adult can agree to make child support payments for a stepchild he has never formally adopted.

Child support is financial aid one parent pays to the other as a contribution toward the food, shelter, medical care and other necessities for his minor children. Although currently courts mandate child support payments only for biological or adoptive parents, an adult can agree to make child support payments for a stepchild he has never formally adopted.

Parental Duty

Every parent has a duty under the law to provide financial assistance to his minor children. This responsibility starts from the moment a child is born or adopted and does not terminate until the child is emancipated, usually when she reaches the age of majority. The duty parents owe to legally adopted children is the same as that owed to biological children.

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Enforcement of Duty

Most states take an active role in enforcing a parent's legal obligation to support his kids. While the identity of a child's biological mother is rarely in question, it is more difficult to determine a child's father with certainty. A man married to a woman who gives birth is presumed by law to be the father of the child. If a married man wishes to disprove paternity, or a single mother wishes to identify the child's biological father, DNA tests can establish or negate paternity.

No Legal Duty

Adults do not owe a legal duty to pay child support for children who are not their biological children unless they have formally adopted them. Stepchildren are a good example. Many states now impose a duty on a stepparent to support his stepchildren during his marriage if he assumed them into his family. However, no state requires a stepparent to continue to support the stepchildren after he divorces their mother.

Child Support Agreement

On the other hand, no law prevents an adult from agreeing to pay child support for children he does not owe a legal duty to support. If a stepparent wishes to provide financial support for his stepchildren, he can include a provision for support in his divorce settlement agreement with the children's mother. Once the judge enters the order, the mother can count on receiving child support payments according to that agreement.

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In a Divorce Am I Responsible for Kids That Are Not Mine?

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California Law on Child Support for Stepchildren

California law demands that each biological parent financially support her child, but a stepparent isn't required to support a stepchild unless the stepparent legally adopts that child, effectively replacing the biological parent. However, a stepparent's income can influence the amount of child support a biological parent must pay under certain circumstances.

Does Child Support Go to the Children After They Move Out?

Generally, child support terminates once the child moves out of his parent's home to live independently. Support is meant to benefit the child, but payment is ordered to the custodial parent to cover the noncustodial parent's share of child rearing expenses. State statutes specify conditions that turn a child into an adult, for support purposes. In most states, moving out of the parent's home to live independently qualifies as a transition into adulthood that terminates the support obligation.

Divorce & Adoption

When a couple decides to get divorced during an adoption process, it does not necessarily halt the adoption, although the impact of divorce will depend upon the type of adoption involved. Parents of children whose adoption is finalized before the divorce will have the same rights as biological parents with regard to custody, visitation and child support. Divorce proceedings occurring prior to the finalization of the adoption could hurt the progression of the adoption, depending on the individual circumstances. There is also an interplay between adoption subsidies and the receipt or payment of child support.

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