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.
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:-
- You are not the biological or adoptive parent of the child;
- 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
- 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:-
- The length and circumstances of the marriage or relationship between John and Wendy;
- The relationship between John and George;
- The arrangements for the maintenance of George that had existed;
- 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.