By Guest blogger Dionne Chambers Part II: Can signing a domestic contract protect you from future child support obligations? In Part I, we looked at some indicators in blended families where relationship you form with your partner’s children begins to attract child support obligations for you should the relationship between you and your partner end. We saw that s.1. (1) of the Family Law Act defines a parent as someone “who has demonstrated a settled intention to treat a child as a child of his of her family”. We also learned that the courts note the presence of certain factors such as financial provision for and disciplining your partner’s children will lead to a closer review of the family situation. Another factor which firms up that settled intention include representing to the stepchild and to the world that you are responsible for his or her welfare. The big picture? Your treatment of your natural children and your stepchildren is indistinguishable; a child support obligation arises. Is this financial obligation preventable? You want all children in the household to be treated equally, to feel loved and included, and to benefit from the same standard of living in your home. But, you make more money than your partner. And although you are generous in sharing your money with every member in the household today, you don’t want to be saddled with huge child support payments for her children, too, after the relationship ends. Can a domestic contract entered into with your partner protect you from future child support obligations? Section 53. (1) of the Ontario Family Law Act provides that you can enter into an agreement with your new partner regarding child support obligations. Read a little farther along and s. 56. (1.1) of the Act provides that a court may disregard any provision of a domestic contract pertaining to the support of a child where the provision is unreasonable having regard to the Child Support Guidelines, as well as to any other like provision relating to child support in the contract. Additionally, s. 33 (4) of the Act provides that a court may set aside a waiver of the right to support in a domestic contract and make an order for proper child support if that waiver results in unconscionable circumstances. Unconscionable? Offensive to the morality of others: ‘it’s just plain wrong not to provide for all children in your household”. Courts are similarly protective of a child’s entitlement to support to ensure each child’s well being. Child support is the right of the child, not the right a parent. Courts tell us that provisions in domestic agreements opting out of child support may not preclude a court from determining the issue of child support. So what to do? Open your heart and your arms, close your wallet, and keep your guidance to yourself. If you can…most can’t hold a restrictive stance for too long. What child support options will work for you upon separation? Ask questions. Be informed about reasonable arrangements which may work in your circumstances. Arrange for an appointment today with Lorisa by contacting her office through her website LorisaStein.com or call her on her direct line at 416 596-8081. We will respond to your call as soon as possible.