Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Step-Parent Definition:

The status of one spouse in regards to the natural children of the other spouse issue from another.

Related Terms: In Loco Parentis, Step-Child

Similar to a parent in loco parentis except that the latter status is usually acquired only by the efflux of time and is pregnant with legal liabilities, whereas a step-parent is a term generally given to one spouse upon the commencement of cohabitation with the natural parent of the step-children.

In R v Groening, Justice Montague adopted these words:

"Step-father ... meant the husband of the mother of a child which was the offspring of her previous marriage ....

"The second husband of a woman in regard to the children of that woman had by her previous marriage."

In Re A., Justice Peter Martin of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench managed extraordinary judicial gymnastics to conclude that a step-parent could include a same-sex couple. This was necessary because in Canada circa 1999:

"Same sex couples may constitute families ...  to the same extent as are traditional families. Thus, this interpretation is consistent with the government’s policy relating to family law legislation because it reflects the current and evolving family structures."


  • Irwin v Sholl, 22 V.L.R. 640
  • Re A., 1999 ABQB 879
  • R v Groenberg, 107 CCC 234 (1953, Manitoba Court of Appeal)

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