The rights and obligations of step parents
Step parents and step children are common in the social fabric of modern Australia. When a step parent and the biological parent separate, this can raise some issues about what rights and obligations step parents have in raising, providing for, and spending time with, their ex-step children.
Under the law, you are not automatically a ‘step parent’ if you were married to the child’s biological parent.
Under the Family Law Act, you are only a step parent if:
(a) You are not the parent of the child;
(b) You are, or were previously, married or in a de facto relationship with a parent of the child;
(c) You treat, or at any time while married, or the de facto partner of the parent, the child as a member of the family formed with the parent.
Do I have a financial obligation to my step children?
There is no presumption that you have a financial obligation to a step child. You can agree to provide for a step child, if you wish. However, unless a parenting order is made by a Court that determines that you are obliged to financially support a step child, you are not legally obligated to provide for a step child.
Do I have rights to spending time with my step children?
You do not have any automatic rights to spending time with a step child, after separating from the child’s biological parent. However, the parties can make an agreement to do it if both agree.
If you want to have rights to custody, care, and decision-making in the child’s life after separation, then you will need to make an application to the Family Court for parenting orders. If the child is over 16 years of age, then you can make an application for guardianship under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990.
What Can I do?
If you wish to make an application for parenting orders, for spending time with your step child, or getting the other person to financially support a child, Mossensons can assist you.
If you wish to adopt a child under 16 years, or adopt a child over 16 years, then Mossensons can advise, prepare and lodge the appropriate application.
Mossensons can also defend an application made against you for parenting or financial orders, and appear for you in Court.