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Child Maintenance for a Step-Parent | North Brisbane Family Lawyers

The modern-day Brady Bunch: how step children are viewed in the family law realm.

Blended families are becoming more and more common these days. If you’re a step-parent, you might be surprised to learn that you could be ordered by the court to pay your step-child’s maintenance. Find out more from our North Brisbane Family Lawyers.

North Brisbane Family Lawyers

North Brisbane Family Lawyers

 

The Brady Bunch – how you compare to a 1970’s American Sitcom Family

In 2015, 15% of people getting married, were getting married for the second time. That’s a lot considering 227,190 people got married that year. It also means that if the Brady bunch were around today, they wouldn’t stand out from the crowd for the reasons they did back then.

Blended families (where one or both partners are bringing children from a previous relationship into their new relationship), are on the rise. It’s important to know how your relationship with your step children may affect your legal rights in a property settlement, should you ever leave your new partner. Read on to find out more from our North Brisbane Family Lawyers.

Am I a step parent?

Let’s take John for example. John married Wendy, who has a son, George, to her ex-husband Bruce. So: John and Wendy are married, Bruce and Wendy are George’s parents, and Bruce and Wendy are divorced.

By marrying Wendy, and welcoming George into his family, John has legally become George’s step father.

So, you are a step parent if:-

  1. You are not the biological or adoptive parent of the child;
  2. You are or have been married to one of the child’s parents, or are or have been in a de facto relationship with one of child’s parents; and
  3. You’ve treated that child as a member of your blended family whilst in a relationship with that child’s parent.

What does that mean to John while he is married to Wendy?

As a step parent, unless there is an appropriate court order in place, John has no legal obligation to maintain George. John may feel a moral obligation to look after George but whether he accepts that obligation is entirely up to him.

George’s biological parents have a primary duty to maintain George. If either parent is not contributing towards payment of George’s living costs, the other parent may apply to the Child Support Agency for a child support assessment against that parent.

In the meantime, if John wishes to assist Wendy with George’s costs, he can do that but he has no financial obligation in relation to George unless a court order requires him to maintain George.

Is there any situation where John is legally obliged to look after George?

John doesn’t become obliged to maintain George by marrying Wendy. However, a person can apply to the Court seeking orders that John, as a step-parent, be legally obligated to look after, or in legal terms “maintain”, George. This is a called a section 66M Order.

However, the Court won’t require John to step in, if Wendy and Bruce have the ability to look after George.

If a Court was considering whether it was proper to make an order for John to “maintain” George, the Court must consider certain matters only, including:-

  1. The length and circumstances of the marriage or relationship between John and Wendy;
  2. The relationship between John and George;
  3. The arrangements for the maintenance of George that had existed;
  4. Any special circumstances which if not taken into account would result in injustice or undue hardship to any person (whether George, John or any other person).

Where to next?

If someone has made an application against you, as a step parent, seeking that you be ordered to maintain a step-child or if you want advice whether you may obtain an order for the step parent to maintain a step-child, contact us today for tailored, personal, independent legal advice. Our North Brisbane Family Lawyers are here to help.

 

The effect of domestic violence on a property settlement | Family Lawyers Brisbane Northside

You may recall seeing some upsetting headlines in the news like:

“Killer husband was free on bail”

“Tara Brown murder could have been prevented”

“Hervey Bay shooting: triple shooting treated as double murder-suicide”

Domestic violence affects all spectrums of society – young, old, pregnant, male, female, short term relationships, long term relationships. There is no exception. However, in recent years, society has become more aware of domestic violence and the importance of changing the mentality surrounding domestic violence with campaigns like “Not Now, Not Ever” in Queensland and “It stops here” in New South Wales.

In 1997, the Court in Kennon v Kennon took the first step in recognising the serious impact of domestic violence on a person. Domestic violence is now considered, in the family law realm, as an issue that can be considered in appropriate cases when determining the respective entitlements of parties for the division of their matrimonial property pool. However, it is necessary that more than the existence of domestic violence in a relationship must be shown before a Court will make any adjustment in favour of a party who has suffered domestic violence and in practice it is likely that this factor will lead to an adjustment for property settlement in favour of a party in only a narrow band of cases.

However, proving this argument is not simple. You must provide evidence to the court, and not in a generalised nature, of specific incidents when you suffered from domestic violence.

Before a court may make an adjustment in favour of a party who has suffered domestic violence from the former partner, the court must be satisfied that:-

  1. There was a violent course of conduct by one party towards the other;
  2. That violent conduct occurred during the relationship;
  3. That that conduct is demonstrated to have had a significant adverse impact upon that party’s contribution to the relationship or to have made those contributions significantly more arduous;
  4. There is a connection between the violence and the contribution.

There must be sufficient evidence to enable a court to quantify the effect of the violence upon the party’s capacity to make contributions in the relationship.

If you would like advice in this area, contact our family lawyers Brisbane or our family lawyers Brisbane Northside who will be happy to assist you.

Can a Child’s view effect who gets custody?

If you’re a parent looking to get partial or full custody of your children, you may be interested to know how your child’s views and preferences are considered by the family courts. Find out from our child custody lawyers northside.

Child Custody Lawyers Northside

Child Custody Lawyers Northside

The situation

A recent High Court decision this year considered parenting arrangements where the children had  expressed that they wanted to live with their father. In that case, the father had initially taken his two sons on a holiday from Australia to New York. A week and a half into the trip, the father decided he wished to stay in the United States with the boys and not return to Australia. The mother filed an application seeking that the children be returned to Australia.

The parents had already made parenting orders a few years earlier which provided both parents with equal shared parental responsibility for the two boys and their daughter. That means that they shared responsibility for long term decisions effecting the children.

As part of those orders, the children would live with the father and the mother as agreed between the parties or at the children’s own election. The orders allowed for the children to travel overseas for a holiday with a parent but did not permit a child to decide, independently of his or her parents, whether or not the child would live in Australia or abroad. The father was in breach of the parenting orders then by keeping the children to live with him in New York.

The children had expressed that they wanted to remain with their father in New York rather than with their mother. So, how did the courts decide where the children would live?

What did the courts decide?

The primary judge in the matter ordered that the boys be returned to Australia. Once the boys returned home, the orders (as agreed by the mother) allowed the boys to choose from a number of options, where they would live. These options included living with the mother, living in accommodation provided by the father together with paid supervision services or, living with one of their friend’s parents who had agreed to accommodate the boys. If the father chose to return to Australia, the boys could also choose to live with him. These orders gave weight to the children’s preference as to where and with whom, they wanted to live.

Why do the courts consider the child’s preference and how much weight is given to it?

In making orders, the Family Court was required to consider the best interests of the children. The views expressed by the children were just one of the many factors considered by the court in deciding what is in the best interests of the child. The level of importance to be given to a child’s view will depend upon factors such as the child’s age or maturity, and level of understanding of what is involved in the choice they have expressed. A child may not, for example, appreciate the long-term implications of separation from one parent or the child’s siblings.

The primary judge in this case had made an interim order that allowed the children to live with a third party, someone other than their parents. The boys had expressed views that suggested at least one or both of them would not want to live with their mother. The court allowed other mothers of longstanding friends of the boys to be appropriate guardians. In deciding whether these other parents were appropriate guardians for the children to live with, the court considered whether they could offer “nurturing and care”, implement arrangements for monitoring homework, transportation to and from school and the type of sleeping arrangements that the boys would be given.

These orders were only interim orders however. The court found that more information would be desirable before making a long term parenting order in favour of third parties. In circumstances of urgency however, there was sufficient evidence before the court to make interim orders which included the option for the boys to live with one of their friend’s parents.

Want to learn more about child custody and parenting arrangements?

If you would like to learn more about child custody, have a look at our resources here created by our experienced child custody lawyers northside.

Or, if you’re looking to receive tailored legal advice, contact our team of child custody lawyers northside. Contact us today to receive a FREE 15-minute consultations with one of our experienced child custody lawyers northside.