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Can Grandparents Be Ordered to Pay Child Support?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 19, 2015 11:00 AM

Grandparents can request visitation rights, so they can also be ordered to pay child support.

Typically, the responsibility to pay child support falls on the parents of the child, not the parents' parents. After all, the grandparents didn't decide to have a grandchild.

However, there are some exceptions where grandparents can be ordered to take up the slack and pay (grand)child support. In some cases, grandparents can also be sued for not following a court order to pay child support.

In Loco Parentis: In Place of a Parent

When grandparents accept child custody of their grandchildren and stand "in loco parents," they can be ordered to pay child support. In loco parentis is Latin for "in the place of a parent."

For example, in a case from New Jersey called Savoie v. Savoie, the grandparents were granted temporary child custody of their granddaughter. When the grandparents divorced, the grandfather was ordered to pay child support for the grandchild to the grandmother. The grandparents in this case acted as the child's parents to the grandchild, so they could be ordered to pay child support.

When it is in the best interests of the child, grandparents might be allowed to take over custody of the child from adoptive parents or biological parents. If full parental rights and custody of a child are not needed, then grandparents may just seek grandparent visitation rights.

Minor Children of Minor Parents

Grandparents may also be liable for child support of a grandchild under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA).

This law allows states to require grandparents to be held liable for child support if the custodial parent is a minor and receives government support payments.

Put simply, let's say the parents are minors. One parent has custody of the baby and receives government assistance. The other parent is ordered to pay child support but doesn't have the money. The parent without the funds has living parents, however, who can then be held responsible for the child support payments.

States with laws requiring grandparents to pay child support include: Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio. Rhode Island. South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Some states, like Maryland and North Carolina, also extend responsibility for child support to the parents of the custodial parent in addition to the parents of the noncustodial parent.

If you have more questions regarding a grandparent's responsibility for child support payments, an experienced family law attorney can help get you the answers.

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