Can Grandparents be forced to pay child support?

grandparent caring for grandchildAs families change, and tough financial times means that parents have to work more and more just to pay the bills, grandparents are becoming more and more involved with raising their grandchildren.  To help out, grandparents can spend a lot of time looking after children so their parents can work.  Sometimes, they spend so much time helping to look after children that they are actively parenting their grandchildren.  But, grandparents need to be careful, especially when their children are separated or divorced.  Anyone who parents a child can be liable for child support, not just the biological parents.  So, just as step-parents can be forced to pay support, so might grandparents who, with the intent of helping out their children, start parenting their grandchildren.  Most grandparents don't think that they may have to pay child support to their former in-laws just by "helping out."  But, this is something grandparents should think about.

Liability for child support is not based only on biology (or an adoption order). Natural (biological) and adoptive parents are always liable for child support for their children.  However, anyone who assumes the role of a parent of a child also becomes liable for child support.   If  grandparents, stand in the place of a parent, meaning that you are more than just babysitters and take an active role in parenting the children, then the children's parents can ask them to pay child support too.  Being in the role of parent means more than being the spouse of a child’s parent and occasional babysitter.  To be liable for support, a grand parent (or step parent) must take an active role in parenting the child. Some facts that show that include: making major decisions for the child, disciplining the child, referring to the child as “my child”, providing financial assistance to the child and having a close emotional relationship with the child. 

It is possible for a child to have three or more parents for the purposes of child support and for two or more parents to pay the full Table Amount of child support to the parent with whom the child resides.    Biological or adoptive parents always pay the full table amount.  Other parents  may or may not pay the full table amount.  However, the more a grand parent acts like a full parent, the closer the  child’s relationship with the grand parent, and the more the child is financially dependent on that grand parent, the more likely that grand parent may end up paying full table support based on the grandparent's income. 

For more on how grand parents (or step parents) can end up paying child support,  check out this webpagewatch this video  and listen to the last topic in this podcast.  If you feel concerned after checking out these resources, you should make an appointment to see a family lawyer.


© John P. Schuman 2014