Blended families are more common than ever. In fact, 40% of couples with children involve a stepparent-stepchild relationship — at least one of the partners in the marriage had a child from a previous relationship.

As with all marriages, sometimes those relationships end in divorce. And that begs the question: how is child support handled when there are stepparents and stepchildren in a divorce?

What is child support?

Child support is a payment made by the non-custodial parent for the welfare of a minor child in the custodial parent’s care. Child support payments are recurring, generally once a month. They continue until the child reaches the age of majority — 18 years old or when they finish high school.

When divorce cases go to trial, the family court judge orders child support where it’s appropriate. For uncontested divorce cases or cases that settle before trial, the parents can voluntarily enter into a child support agreement.

In Georgia, child support is calculated using a formula available in the Georgia child support calculator. The calculator considers both parents’ incomes, the stated child care expenses, and the child’s health insurance costs. Then it calculates each parent’s responsibility for child support based on their percentage of the total family income.

See: How is Child Support Calculated in Georgia?

Who is responsible for paying child support?

While the child support calculator provides a presumptive child support amount for each parent, only the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.

While it’s still more common for the custodial parent to be the mother, that’s not always the case. Child support flows from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, regardless of gender.

Of course, it’s possible that no one will be required to pay child support. If the parents have a relatively equal share of parenting time and similar incomes, the non-custodial parent may not have a higher child support obligation than the custodial parent.

For example, say both parents bring in about half of the family’s total income. Parent A has primary physical custody, but Parent B has parenting time about 40% of the time. Parent B may be required to pay a small child support amount. Or perhaps Parent B pays for the child’s healthcare costs, and doesn’t pay child support at all.

See: How Much Child Support Will I Get?

Is a stepparent responsible for paying child support?

In Georgia, stepparents are not required to pay child support. However, if a stepparent has legally adopted the child, they will have to pay child support. This is because the adoption makes the stepparent the parent of the child—they are no longer a stepparent. Of course, it should be noted that a stepparent can’t legally adopt a child unless the other biological parent’s rights have been terminated.

See: The Best Way to Help Children Cope With Divorce? Make It Amicable

Although a stepparent has no legal obligation to support a child, they also have no custody or parenting time rights. Some families choose to do a stepparent adoption before going through with the divorce. An adoption may be best if the other biological parent is no longer in the child’s life. The stepparent adoption makes the stepparent a full legal parent—giving them custody rights and child support responsibilities.

Some families choose not to do a stepparent adoption, but informally agree the stepparent will still spend time with the child. This may make sense if the parties have children together and feel it is important for the sibling relationship.

Every divorcing couple — whether there are stepchildren or not — has the opportunity to choose an uncontested or amicable divorce. Uncontested divorces are less expensive and create less drama for everyone involved, especially children.

We work with divorcing couples to negotiate out-of-court agreements for a better divorce experience. Contact us to schedule a Strategy Session today.