Step-parent Support - Recent Washington State Developments
By Erik Bjornson, Attorney at Law


There are many different parties that may be liable for child support during the time the child is a dependent. Without adopting the child, a step parent may nevertheless find that he or she is obligated for child support under certain circumstances

Who is obligated to pay child support?

Normally, no one is obligated to pay child support unless there is a court order requiring payment. However, support in Washington may be set administratively by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Although no court hearing is required, the state can still issue an enforceable administrative order for child support with ever having to request a court hearing in the matter. Typically, the parent that does not have physical custody of the child is the one obligated to pay child support to the custodial parent. However, in a third party custody action, where another party has custody of the child, both parents may be required to pay child support.

The obligation of step parents to pay child support

A person who formally adopts a child court certainly be required to pay child support should they lose primary custody of the child. Likewise, the parent who gives their child up for adoption will be relieved of future child support once the adoption has been finalized.

A stepparent typically is not required to pay child support by simply by marrying someone with a child from a previous relationship. However, under some circumstances, the court may impose a child support obligation while the dissolution is pending and before the dissolution is granted.

Statutory Law in Washington regarding step child support

The state law concerning the obligation of a stepparent to pay child support may be found in RCW 26.16.205 as well as the subsequent case law.

RCW 26.16.205 Liability for family support--Termination of support obligation of stepparent, when.

"The expenses of the family and the education of the children, including stepchildren, are chargeable upon the property of both husband and wife, or either of them, and they may be sued jointly or separately. When a petition for dissolution of marriage or a petition for legal separation is filed, the court may, upon motion of the stepparent, terminate the obligation to support the stepchildren. The obligation to support stepchildren shall cease upon the entry of a decree of dissolution, decree of legal separation, or death."


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