A step parent is defined in section 4(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 as a person who:
Legal parental responsibility is the authority to make decisions concerning and affecting the care, welfare and proper development of a child.
Step-parents don’t automatically have legal parental responsibility. This means a step-parent cannot legally authorise medical care, apply for passports, sign school forms and so on.
For a step-parent to gain parental responsibility of a child they either need a parenting order or to adopt.
Note, it is advised to seek independent legal advice regarding parental responsibility as a step-parent as legislation can vary between each state and territory in Australia
Related Article: A Guide To Parental Responsibility
Parenting orders are one way stepparents can obtain parental responsibility for their stepchildren and have the same authority and responsibilities as a biological parent.
Only a court can grant an adoption. Courts usually grant adoption only when parenting orders aren’t enough to protect a child’s welfare.
If a step-parent adopts their partner’s child, they are given the same parental responsibility (as in all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children) as the child’s natural parents.
In order to adopt a step-child, the step-parent must be either married to the child’s natural parent, or must have been in a de facto relationship with the natural parent for two or more years.
Note: This is general information advice only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters, please contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email [email protected]