What Does “In Loco Parentis” (Standing In The Place Of A Parent) Mean?

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What does “in loco parentis” (standing in the place of a parent) mean?

Family has so much more meaning that its traditional definition. Family, nowadays is compromised from a myriad of stepchildren, stepparents or the biological mother and father. Regardless, before you dig in deep and begin the journey of embarking into a new relationship with a partner that has children from a prior marriage or relationship, it may be of importance to understand what your obligations and responsibilities are, should you separate from that partner. This includes obligations to the child, known as in loco parentis. After all, you end up falling in love with more than just your partner.

Consequently, if the relationship ends you may be in for more than just a broken heart. Most adults find it near impossible to refrain from entering some form of relationship with their partners children. You spend a lot of time together on road trips, sporting events, back yard BBQ’s and swim meetups with other parents. You develop unbreakable bonds. Because of this, you may find yourself “in loco parentis”. Which is the term meaning “in place of a parent” to those children.

What Criteria Must Be Met To Be Considered “In Loco Parentis?”

To meet the criteria for a person standing in the place of parent, two conditions must be met:

First, the person must be the spouse or partner of the child’s parent also known as the child’s stepparent. Or the person was in a relationship of some longevity with a parent of the child.

Secondly, the person must have displayed a settled intention to treat the child as the person’s own child. It is not enough to be stepparent, or even be a very good stepparent.

Determination Of Standing In The Place Of A Parent

To determine if the person has displayed a settled intention to treat the child as if they were their own child, the court will take into consideration multiple factors:

  • Does the child participate in the extended family in the same way as a biological child?
  • Whether the person provides financially for the child
  • The child’s age
  • Your involvement in the child’s health, education, language, recreational activities, and discipline
  • The length of the relationship with the child
  • Does the biological parent have an existing relationship with the child or what is the nature of their relationship?

Making a in loco parentis claim is not always easy to establish. A court will conclude based on facts presented as well as a through relevant conditions in the Alberta Family Law Act. Not having adequate knowledge to establish and defend against any claims of standing in place of a parent can come as quite a shock.

What Are The Rights And Obligations Of A Person Found To Be Standing In The Place Of A Parent?

If the court makes the determination that you have the same rights and obligations as a biological parent, there are certain obligations that you will have to fulfill. These include child custody and access, and child support. In determining how much you will have to pay and for how long, the courts will look to:

  • case law;
  • legislation;
  • the amount of support the other biological parent is responsible for (if applicable); and
  • the length of the relationship between you and the child.

Common Law VS Married

The law addresses in loco parentis in 2 different ways based on what your relationship may be with the child’s parent or guardian.

If you are in a common law relationship, the Family Law Act and Alberta Child Support Guidelines will lead the courts to make a determination as to your responsibility to the child.

If you are in a married relationship, the Divorce Act with the Federal Child Support Guidelines or the Family Law Act with its corresponding Alberta Child Support Guidelines will allow the courts to determine your legal obligations in providing child support for the child.

Can Extended Family Be In Loco Parentis?

Yes, this is possible. For instance, if a child is in the care of their grandparents for a long period of time, then the grandparents can be in loco parentis. This situation tends to take place when the parents are unable to care for the child. Further, if the child’s biological parents make a claim for custody of the child, the grandparents will often have the right to maintain custody of the child. In addition, they will be able to continue having decision-making rights for the child. Ultimately, it will always be dependent on what is in the best interest of the child.

Help With In Loco Parentis Determination

Even if you are clear on your views of parenting the child, it is vital that you understand the gravity of not being knowledgeable in defending or establishing a claim of in loco parentis. Call today for help in determining whether the courts would label your position as in loco parentis. We also help with all stages of court applications for child support. This includes everything from understanding your position, to the granting of the final order. Great importance exists in getting legal information early in the process. Call us today in our Calgary, Alberta Office at 403-225-8810 (also, toll-free at 1-877-225-8817), or, for a quicker response, email us directly here.