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.

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.

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.

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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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Florida Adoption & Inheritance Laws
 

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California Family Laws on Terminating Child Support

Both parents have a responsibility to provide for the financial needs of their minor children in California. When one parent asks for a child support order, the judge reviews the family's financial information and determines the amount the other parent must pay. The presumed father can terminate his obligation to pay child support by disproving paternity, and either parent can seek a modification based on changed circumstances. If not otherwise terminated, the child support obligation lasts until the child is emancipated.

Rights for Fathers Paying Child Support

Child support and child visitation rights are two separate issues. A father has the obligation to support his child and the legal right to spend time with her. The fact that the father is behind on child support payments does not impact his right to child visitation. Child support is paid to the custodial parent, as legal guardian of the child, or to the state, as an interested party in the child's welfare. However, all payments are made on behalf of the child; therefore neither the custodial parent nor the state can waive the payment obligation. State laws govern how much a father needs to pay to take care of his child.

Legal Age a Child Can Refuse Contact by Divorced Parents

As children of divorced parents get older, they may be pulled toward one parent or another and may not want to see the other parent. However, if a child decides he no longer wants contact with his divorced parents, he must become emancipated before he can exercise a legal right to refuse contact.

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