Can Grandparents Be Held Responsible For Child Support?

At common law, the biological or adoptive parents owe a duty to support their children as mandated by the state. This duty isn’t dependent on marriage, but rather on a moral and social obligation to support the ones you bring into the world. The law holds across the nation – child support must be paid. But what happens when the parent can no longer fulfill the duty? Is the grandparent next in line?




The Myth: Grandparents Can Be Held Responsible for Unpaid Child Support


In past cases, it has been argued that children are bound to their mother and father and all other ascendants, and the relatives in the direct ascending line are also bound to maintain their descendants in need.


The Reality: The Parent Is Still Solely Responsible for Child Support


However, our Courts have held that the grandparents could not be held liable for child support, and that the parent maintained the primary obligation to provide child support, except under certain conditions. Specifically, no obligation can be imposed on the grandparents so long as the whereabouts of the parent are reasonably ascertainable and judicial proceedings can be taken against the parent to obtain child support.


The Exception: Loco Parentis


The only exception to the rule? A grandparent doesn’t have a duty to provide child support payments, except when the grandparent is standing in loco parentis to the grandchild, meaning that they assume parental status and carry out the obligations of a parent, whether there is legal or biological connection or not. Unless the child was in the grandparent’s custody, the grandparent’s child support liability is still only secondary.


Schulz Stephenson Law represents clients regarding Family Law, Domestic, and Divorce matters in Carteret County, NC including Beaufort, Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Cape Carteret, and Emerald Isle as well as New Bern and other areas in Craven County, Pamlico County and surrounding areas. Contact us today for a consultation so we can discuss the next steps in your child support matter.

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January 15, 2016 in Schulz Stephenson Law Blog