In a divorce involving children, one parent is often named the custodial parent. They are the one the child is with most of the time. The parent with visitation rights is the non-custodial parent, and they pay child support. How does this work when a stepchild is involved though? Our child support lawyers in Bergen County, NJ can help you figure that out.
When Can the Court Order Me Pay Child Support for a Stepchild?
It is rather rare for a stepparent to be ordered to pay child support after a divorce in New Jersey. Even though you acted as a parent to your stepchild during your marriage, the state essentially sees your obligation as ending once you have divorced your spouse. It is the biological parents of the child who have the obligation to care for them and see to their material needs, not the former stepparent.
One thing that can change this is adoption. Sometimes a stepparent adopts a stepchild as their own. They can only do this if a biological parent is deceased or if they have given up their parental rights. In cases like this, the stepparent could be ordered to pay child support because now the state sees them as the lawful parent of their stepchild. They now have a financial obligation that must be fulfilled.
Do I Have Visitation Rights With My Stepchild?
In most situations, you do not. Just as you have no legal option to support your stepchild once a marriage ends, you also do not have any of the traditional parental rights. That includes a right to visitation.
In some situations, a parent sees how important the relationship between their child and their former spouse is. They may grant them the opportunity to spend time with their stepchild as a result. The court cannot really order this though.
If you adopted your stepchild, you may have visitation rights. A lawyer can help you fight for an outcome that is in the best interest of you and the child.
Could I Still Owe Alimony and Other Financial Support?
Even if you cannot be made to pay child support for a stepchild, that does not mean that you will not have some kind of financial obligation after your marriage ends. After your divorce, you could be made to pay alimony or spousal support. So in a way, you could end up supporting your stepchild on at least a temporary basis, but this is not really the same as paying child support. It is still unlikely that a court will order you to pay child support even as you are paying alimony.
Talk to Our Attorneys
If you want to learn more about your legal options and potential obligations, contact Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark. We can schedule a consultation and our legal team can tell you more about how the state sees stepparents