All too often men and women who have played a significant role in the lives of children allow themselves to be distanced from an ongoing role in that child’s life following separation from the child’s parent, on the basis that they are not biologically related to the child.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) imposes no requirement of biology upon a person wanting to play an ongoing role in a child’s life where there is an established history of meaningful involvement with that child. Quite the contrary, the Court’s motivation in most cases, is to maintain the child’s stability and emotional supports following separation.
There is a significant quantity of case law reflecting the Court’s acknowledgment of the importance of step-parents spending time with children, including non-biological lesbian and gay parents who have either been involved in the conception of a child, or acted as a step-parent during their childhood.
Similarly, grandparents fall cleanly within the definition of someone whom has a right to seek a Parenting Order. Unfortunately, sometimes relationships break down between the generations, and there is no requirement that the child’s parents have separated for a grandparent to seek specific scheduled time with a child.
Any issue of the time that a step-parent or grandparent will spend with a child will be resolved by reference to the question of what will be in the child’s best interests having regard to their unique sensitivities and personality. Obviously, it’s imperative that a child is not destabilised by being shuttled between multiple residences, but in the case of a child whom has never known any other parents, the Court will routinely direct a more shared care arrangement irrespective of one parent not being biologically related to the child. For the parent who does have a biological relationship with the child, it is important that he or she be conscious that they may ultimately be judged adversely if they have taken steps to discourage the child’s relationship with their former partner, or unreasonably limit the time they can spend together.
The Court will routinely emphasise the need for parents to move forward in a positive way, and with one eye on the benefit to their children of spending time with those adults and other children who have played an important role in their lives previously.
The information contained herein is not intended to be a complete statement of the law on any subject and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice in specific fact situations.