What hap­pens regard­ing child vis­i­ta­tion rights when blend­ed fam­i­lies divorce?

The blend­ed fam­i­ly (step-fam­i­ly)

In a blend­ed fam­i­ly, com­mon­ly known as a step-fam­i­ly, 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?

Step-par­ents 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 step child 

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.