Step-parents' rights and responsibilities

If you have stepchildren and you separate from their parent, you may want to continue your relationship with those children. You may want to keep being like a parent to them.

How to continue your relationship with your stepchildren

You can try to negotiate an arrangement with the child's parent for you to have regular contact with the child. The only thing you and the other parent can consider when making these decisions is the best interests of the child. You can put these arrangements into an agreement that the two of you write down and sign.

If you want to become the child's guardian, you have to get a court order. The law says that a person can't become a guardian by just writing it in an agreement (this includes parents who aren't guardians). For more information, see our fact sheet How can you become a guardian? You can also apply to court for an order for contact with the child if the two of you can't agree on this. In either case, you'll have to show the court that the orders you're asking for are in your stepchildren's best interests.

You can use the self-help guides on this website to apply for guardianship or contact with the child.

See the fact sheet Parenting apart for more information about what it means to be a guardian or have contact with a child. See also Best interests of the child.

If you want to learn more about adopting a stepchild, see the Adoption by a Relative or Step Parent page on the Ministry of Children and Family Development website.

Your responsibility to support your stepchildren after separation

As a step-parent, you may be responsible to pay child support if:

  • you and the child's parent are or were married or lived common-law for at least two years, and
  • you also lived with the child.

You aren't responsible to pay child support for stepchildren unless:

  • you contributed to the child's support for at least one year during your relationship with the child's parent, and
  • the application for support is made within a year of the last time you contributed to the child's support.

A step-parent's responsibility to pay child support comes after the child's parents' or guardians' responsibility.

To decide if a step-parent should pay child support, the court will consider the child's standard of living when he or she lived with the step-parent, and how long they lived together.

Important: It's a good idea to get legal advice before making or changing a decision about adoption, guardianship, or other parenting issues.

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