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Can You Quit Paying Support for a Child That is Not Even Yours?

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Can You Quit Paying Support for a Child That is Not Even Yours?

In Hari v. Hari, the couple were married for eight years and had one child together. However, the mother also had a daughter from a previous relationship, and one whom the father (i.e. now the stepfather) had financially supported and treated as his own. In fact, from a legal standpoint the stepfather “stood in the place of a parent” to the girl for 12 years, until he and her mother separated.

Once the separation occurred, the mother – now unemployed and receiving employment insurance – needed child support. The girl’s own biological father had historically been unreliable: the mother knew little more than that he was living outside of Ontario, and that he worked in the music business. More to the point, the mother had no idea what he earned and she had received virtually no support from him at all over the years.

This being the case, the mother went to court to ask for an order that the stepfather should pay support for both the child they had together, as well as for the mother’s daughter from the previous relationship. The stepfather disputed that he should pay support for the mother’s daughter, especially since his relationship with the girl had completely broken down since the separation.

The court, in considering the circumstances, applied the following approach based on previously-established legal authority, in order to “do the math” on the support amount:

1) it determined the amount otherwise payable by the stepfather under the Child Support Guidelines (including special expenses and any adjustment for undue hardship);

2) it determined the “legal duty” of the biological father to contribute child support; and

3) it considered whether it is appropriate to reduce the stepfather’s obligation under the Guidelines.

The court also took the approach that once the stepfather could establish that the biological father (and, for that matter, the mother) also had a duty to support the child, it was then up to the mother to demonstrate why the stepfather’s support obligation should not be reduced in an amount commensurate to the support owed by the biological father and mother.

Using this formula – and rejecting his contention that he should pay no support for the girl at all – the court ordered the stepfather to pay support in the full Guidelines-mandated amount, at least until there was some evidence brought to court as to what the biological father could afford to contribute.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Hari v. Hari, 2013 ONSC 5562 (CanLII)

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit our main site.