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11 April 2013 What happens regarding child visitation rights when blended families divorce?

By Caroline Bass, Senior Associate


THE BLENDED FAMILY (STEPFAMILY)

In a blended family, commonly known as a stepfamily, one or both partners have children from previous relationships. So what happens if the blended family then breaks down? Does the stepparent have visitation rights with their stepchild?


STEPPARENTS HAVE RIGHTS

Under the Family Law Act (Cth), children have a right to spend time and communicate on a regular basis with any person who is significant to their care, welfare and development. This includes stepparents. This means that just because a relationship has broken down, it does not mean that the stepchild should miss out on spending time with their stepparent.

REACHING AGREEMENT WITH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS

It is recommended first to try to reach an agreement with the biological parents of the child regarding what visitation rights the stepparent will have. Stepparents have access to Family Relationship Centres and Alternative Dispute Resolution Centres to assist them in negotiating with parents to allow them to have regular, uniterrupted visits with their stepchild.

APPLYING FOR COURT ORDERS TO SEE THE STEPCHILD

If a stepparent cannot come to an arrangement with the biological parents, a Section 601 Certificate can be issued and the stepparent is then able to make an application to either the Federal Magistrates Court or Family Court to have orders made for them to see the stepchild. The Court is likley to grant such an order, providing the court believes it is in the best interests of the child to do so.

For more information please contact:

Caroline Bass, Partner  |  Phone: +61 2 9233 5544  |  Email: cxb@swaab.com.au

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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