The Family Law Act provides that if a stepparent contributed to the support of a child for a period in excess of one year, that parent may be required to pay child maintenance for the child. Section 147(4) and (5) of the Family Law Act states:


(4) A child’s stepparent does not have a duty to provide support for the child unless


(a) the stepparent contributed to the support of the child for at least one year, and

(b) a proceeding for an order under this Part, against the stepparent, is started within one year after the date the stepparent last contributed to the support of the child.


(5) If a stepparent has a duty to provide support for a child under subsection (4), the stepparent’s duty


(a) is secondary to that of the child’s parents and guardians, and

(b) extends only as appropriate on consideration of


(i)   the standard of living experienced by the child during the relationship between the stepparent and his or her spouse, and

(ii)   the length of time during which the child lived with the stepparent.



The B.C. Court of Appeal in a recent decision, Sullivan v. Struck (2015) BCCA 521, stated that even where a stepparent had no control over a child’s discipline and did not contribute financially to the support of a child that parent may still be standing in the place of a parent.


The court stated that where the stepparent had formed a new family with the child’s biological parent and played the role of a parent it was reasonable to infer that they performed all the usual duties of a parent. In this case the stepparent attended parent teacher interviews representing to the world that she was acting as a parent and was concerned about the child’s education.


Deborah A. Todd
Deborah A. Todd