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CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ministry of the Attorney General
Who pays child support?
All parents have a responsibility to financially support their dependent children. It doesn’t matter if they are the birth parent or a non-birth parent. And, more than one parent can have a legal duty to pay child support for the same child.
But step-parents or other people who have a parent-like relationship with the child are treated differently from parents and might not have the same financial responsibility.
Deciding who is a parent can sometimes be complicated. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities.
Who the law says is a parent
On January 1, 2017, the law was changed to recognize the legal status of all parents. The law no longer defines who is a parent based only on biology. This means a parent doesn't need to have a genetic connection to a child if they intended to be a parent prior to the child’s conception.
The changes recognize that parents can be LGBTQ2+ or straight. Their sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, intersexual, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and heterosexual people have equal rights as parents.
The law was also updated to take into account that a child can be born from assisted reproduction, not just from sexual intercourse. Examples of assisted reproduction are a child born by a surrogate or by using a donor’s egg or sperm.
The person who gave birth to the child is the birth parent. Most of the time, the birth parent is a parent of the child.
In some situations involving surrogacy, the person who gave birth to the child is not a parent. If you are thinking of using a surrogate or becoming a surrogate, you should talk to a lawyer about making a written agreement about who will be a parent before the child is conceived.
In most cases, if the child is the result of sexual intercourse, the person whose sperm resulted in the child being born is also a parent. This person will not be a parent at birth if there is a written agreement saying they did not intend to be a parent. The agreement must be signed before sexual intercourse.
The birth parent’s married or common-law partner is usually a parent. If the sperm that resulted in the child was not from the partner, the partner must agree to be a parent of the child before the pregnancy. The partner does not need to be genetically related to the child to be a parent. They also do not need to adopt the child or get a court declaration that they are a parent.
In some cases, the law assumes a person is a parent unless they prove they are not. For example, the law assumes that the birth parent’s married or common-law partner is a parent of a child who is the result of sexual intercourse. The spouse might be able to show that they should not be a parent by, for example, taking a blood or DNA test.
If people disagree about who is a parent, they can go to court. The court can make a declaration of parentage. This means the court decides whether or not a person is a parent to a child.
Number of parents
The law has changed to recognize that sometimes there will be more than 2 parents. Up to 4 people can agree on who will be the parents of the child, without needing a court order. This written agreement must be made before the start of pregnancy.
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Reviewed: March 1, 2018