Joint Accounts

How Much Should I Chip in to Raise My Partner’s Child?

Figuring out how to split expenses when a kid is involved

Kristin Wong
Published in
4 min readJul 1, 2019

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Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

I’ve recently moved in with my partner of 18 months, and we’re going through the process of figuring out which costs are shared. For the moment, we think the best solution is to both pay into a joint account for shared expenses, while maintaining our own separate accounts for individual spending. This is still a work in progress, but it seems to be working so far.

My question is about my partner’s 8-year-old son from a previous marriage: Should I be contributing to the cost of raising him? There are situations where I understand it might be fair, like paying for groceries while he’s staying with us, but what about things I’m not directly involved with, like clothing, entertainment, and education? I don’t want to create a sense of distance between myself and my partner’s son, and I don’t want my partner to feel like I resent his son. But there will likely be significant costs incurred down the line as he enters high school and university, and I want to make sure my partner and I reach an agreement before the issue becomes more significant.

Sincerely,

Conflicted Partner

RRaising kids is expensive, and it’s understandable that you want to know how much you’re financially responsible for — especially if your partner’s son is getting financial support from another parent, presumably your partner’s ex. Questioning your financial role doesn’t mean you don’t love the kid. It just means you want to make sure you all keep things financially fair.

That said, there are a number of variables to consider. It doesn’t sound like you’re married, but even if you are, stepparents typically aren’t legally financially responsible for stepchildren unless they adopt. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook completely, though: If your partner carries most of the responsibility for the cost of raising their son, that responsibility will likely affect your joint finances. Even if you’re not actively paying into the son’s costs, your partner might have less to contribute to your shared household expenses when their son goes to college or wants a…

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.