Blended Families Child Custody
In today’s society, the nuclear family unit is no longer the norm. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and it is not uncommon for families to include children from previous relationships. As these families grow and develop, so too is it not uncommon for the families to include half-siblings. These blended family relationships can create some complexity in parenting proceedings before the Court due to the number of relationships involved.
Notwithstanding the complexity, the Court will determine the matter no differently from other matters where the blended family dynamic is not present. The Court is able to make parenting Orders in favour of any person deemed to be “concerned with the care, welfare and development of the child”. This can include step-parents.
The focus of the Court in determining all parenting matters is to ensure that the child/ren’s best interests are paramount. The primary considerations (section 60CC(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)) the Court will look at are:-
- Ensuring, where possible, that the child has a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
- Ensuring that the child is protected from the risk of harm, including psychological, physical or emotional abuse.
Where the above two considerations are conflictive, the protection of the child from exposure to abuse paramount.
Secondary to the above considerations are a host of additional considerations that the Court needs to examine. This is often where the blended family dynamic is taken into account. In considering the blended family, the Court will look at factors such as:-
- The child’s relationship the step-parent, step-siblings, half-siblings and any other person;
- The child’s relationship with the biological parents;
- Any views expressed by the child;
- The living arrangements for the child and any other children;
- The likely effect on the child’s circumstances if either of the parties’ proposed Orders were made;
- The practical difficulty imposed with respect to the child spending time with the other parent or any other person if the Order sought by either party were made;
- The care arrangements to date for the child and any other children; and
- Whether there are any allegations of abuse made against step-parents or any other member as against the child.
The above list is not exhaustive. Each case may require the Court to examine a range of differing factors. Ultimately, the Court’s primary focus is making Orders which are in the child’s best interests.
On a practical level, there are a number of factors you should consider before creating a blended family dynamic with your new partner.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?