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Court Decides the Legal Liability of Step Parents


Helen Alexander is the petitioner in this case. The respondent is Lyle Alexander.


Helen Alexander married Lyle Alexander on March 17th of 1989. The couple separated in the last quarter of the following year. Helen Alexander and her child from a previous marriage are both social service recipients.

According to a New York Family Lawyer, the petitioner is seeking child support. After an initial hearing on March 11th of 1991, the respondent was ordered to pay a total of $130 in support money each week, with half being paid for spousal support, the other half for child support. A request was made for the issuance of an income execution but the court denied it because the payments on all the support had been kept current.

Two objections were raised by Mrs. Alexander. She alleges that the hearing examiner made a mistake when good cause was found as reason to not issue an immediate income execution. She also feels that the hearing examiners should have assessed child support in the amount of $170, as per the Child Support Standards Act.

This matter hinges upon the legal liability of step parents. Section 414 of the Family Court Act holds that stepparents are responsible for providing support for children who are less than 21 years of age if those children are receiving public assistance. However, this law is open to interpretation, in that the court is free to make a decision whether or not a stepparent is liable for support payments under this section of the law.

A New York Custody Lawyer said the question that needed to be answered was whether or not a child receiving public assistance should receive money from a stepparent that only equals the amount of public assistance, or whether other child support guidelines such as the needs of the child and the income of the stepparent be considered instead. Later rulings clearly show that the law is not meant to limit the input of a parent to the amounts of public assistance. However, the law is different when applied to stepparents, and the distinction between the responsibilities of a stepparent when compared to a natural parent need to be examined.

Typically, speaking, a stepparent would only be required to match the amount of support that a natural parent or adoptive parent would if the child would become a public charge if not supported. The difference between the responsibilities between adoptive and natural parents and stepparents directly influence the amount of support that should be required of a person in a child support hearing in the State of New York.


If the wish of the petitioner was granted, a Nassau County Family Lawyer sid the stepparent would be forced to pay an amount that is higher than the amount of public assistance being received by the child. This would cause the revocation of public benefits, leaving the stepfather responsible for her although precedents set in previous cases show that this should not be the case since there is another parent in the picture. Therefore, the amount of support should not exceed the public assistance funds.

In regards to the second objection raised by the petitioner, there is a problem. According to Chapter 828 of the Laws of 1990, the lack of late child support payments by themselves is not a good enough reason to avoid the income withholding. A Queens Family Lawyer said that to avoid this, the child would have to have not been receiving public assistance or there would have had to be a clear written agreement stating that the lack of such withholding was acceptable to both parties. Therefore, the initial ruling on that matter should be reversed.

When a legal difficulty arises, Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help you understand what options you have available to you. Our team will work carefully with you to ensure that your interests are protected in your specific circumstances. Offices are located through the metropolitan New York area, and you may call us at any time to receive a free consultation on your case.

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