What Are My Rights & Responsibilities to Step-children Following a Divorce?

Law Blog

It can be extremely difficult for step-parents who have adopted non-biological children to work out their rights and responsibilities to continue a relationship with these children. If you are going through a similar situation, here are some of the factors that should be considered.

Did the children get adopted by the non-biological parent?

If the children have been adopted by the step-parent then they are legally that child's parent, regardless of the biological relationship or the state of the relationship between the parents. As a result parents have the same rights to access and child support, and the same responsibilities to facilitate access and provide child support as with any other child-parent relationship.

What if the children were adopted by the non biological parent, but know them as a parent?

If the children have not been formally adopted, but there is evidence that they have treated the step-parent as a parent—calling them mum or dad, listing them as a parent on school forms and so on—then the court will take this into account when considering access. The court also take into account the length of the relationship (particularly the age where the child met their step-parent) and whether they have a relationship with both biological parents or only the parents they are living with currently. Access to child support in this scenario is very limited.

Unfortunately access for the extended family tends to be limited, and facilitated through the step-parent as they can negotiate with their ex-partner.

What happens if the children have been not adopted by the step-parent, and have robust relationships with both biological parents?

If the child has a strong relationship with both biological parents, and has only ever had a relationship to their step-parent in the context of their relationship with their biological parent, then their is unlikely to be any rights or responsibilities to assist the child or have a relationship with the child following the separation of the adults in the relationship.

In all family court matters, the court considers the well-being of the children as paramount when deciding on any settlement or access issues. While the biological relationship is paramount, the court considers who the child regards as their parents and family, and aims to maximise supportive familial relationships. A family lawyer firm such as O'Keefe Mahoney Bennett Solicitors can provide you with specific advice around your personal situation and should be contacted if you are getting divorced or considering separation.


23 January 2015

Break In: Everyday Legal Matters You Should Know About

My name is Jeanette Kennan. I have been a high school legal studies teacher for many years. As such, I am fascinated by legal cases I come across in the media. Family and friends often consult me about minor matters related to the law and although no expert, I can often point them in the right direction. It occurred to me that there may be other people out there who are not aware of basic legal issues. After all, you probably don't think about legal matters related to death, accidents or crimes until you find yourself in a crisis situation. This blog is designed to give you some introductory information about a range of legal topics. Hopefully, it will help you to be prepared and informed should a legal concern arise. I really appreciate you breaking in to my humble little site. Please enjoy.