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Detailing a stepparent's financial obligations

36828838_S.jpgParents in Jackson County who separate are encouraged to not only help their child adjust to their break-up, but to move on with their own lives as well. This will often mean remarriage, which introduces an entirely new dynamic into what might already be a complex family relationship: a stepparent. Stepfamilies are certainly not an uncommon phenomenon in the U.S.; according to the Pew Research Center, four out of every 10 American adults have a step-relative. Yet when a divorced or separated parent remarries, the question of what responsibility a stepparent assumes will almost inevitably come up. 

Section 453.400 of Missouri's Domestic Relations Code states that stepparents have a legal obligation to provide for their stepchildren when those stepchildren reside in the same residence. This responsibility does not, however, end the obligation that the children's natural or adoptive parents (who are not living with them) have to continue to fulfill the terms of their child support agreement. If a natural or adoptive parent who is under a legal obligation to pay child support fails to do so (forcing the stepparent to compensate for that support), then the stepparent can seek to be compensated for whatever support the natural or adopted parent's neglect failed to cover. 

In the case that a person gets a divorce from one who is their children's stepparent, the stepparent would typically not have to pay child support provided that the children's other parent is still bound to their own child support obligation. The exception to this would be if the stepparent adopts the children, in which case they assume full legal responsibility for them (thus ending the natural parent's obligation to support them financially). 

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