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What about step parents? and de factos?

What about step parents?

 What about step parents?

And de facto relationships?

50% of marriages end in divorce. Of those, about 60% of the people form new relationships. How does it make any sense to seek constructive changes to Family Law without dealing with these situations?
If anything, it would seem that parents should be there to guide and nurture the new relationships. Instead, animosity and resentment are all that is commonly expressed.
It's not just the "new" parents who need support and guidance, but the children in the new relationship.
Excluding the "new" parent doesn't work, that just alienates them - and consequently alienates the child(ren) more.

Yet on these boards, as in so many other venues, the issues of de facto and/or step parents are never discussed.
Is that a mature and responsible attitude given the realities of the society?

PaulD

Amoranthus said
How does it make any sense to seek constructive changes to Family Law without dealing with these situations?

We spent a lot of time over the period of the major reforms dealing specifically with extended families, Grandparents and other people important in the children's lives. You do raise an interesting issue that has not had much of an airing. I have scanned through the new legislation and there is nothing really specific in relation to the "new parent"

I would point out a couple of changes in the new legislation that are of relevance and are the closest I can find relating to new partners. Note the change we have had implimented to the new definitions of relative which was changed to include defacto / step parents.

Item 5 - Subsection 4(1)
28.   Item 5 inserts a new definition of 'relative' into the general definitions in subsection 4(1), which now sets out the definitions for Part VII of the Act.  It is a broad definition of 'relative', which includes step-parents, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins.  This definition is relevant for new subsections 63C(2A), 64B(2), paragraphs 60CC(3)(b) and 60CC(3)(f) and subparagraph 60CC(3)(d)(ii).  Item 5 implements recommendation 44 of the LACA Committee which recommended using the term 'step-parent' rather than 'step-father or step mother' in the definition of relative.  This broad definition is intended to ensure the court takes account of other significant relationships that may be of benefit to a child in making children's orders.

Paragraph 60CC(3)(b)
57.   New paragraph 60CC(3)(b) replaces existing paragraph 68F(2)(b) with a modification.  Existing paragraph 68F(2)(b) provides that where the court is determining the best interests of the child, it must consider the nature of the relationship with each of the child's parents and with other persons.  This provision has been modified to include an explicit reference to grandparents or other relatives of the child.  This change further ensures that the court recognises the importance of the relationships that the child has with their wider family, in particular grandparents.

58.   A new consideration in determining what is in the best interests of a child has been added in paragraph 60CC(3)©.  The additional consideration is the willingness and ability of each of the child's parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.  This criterion will need to be considered by the court along with the other criteria set out in subsection 60CC(2) and (3) when making a parenting order.  New subsection 60CC(4) also provides that when considering this factor, the court must consider the extent to which each of the parents has fulfilled or failed to fulfil their parental obligations.  

(It does not intend that the new parent is the other parent)

Paragraph 60CC(3)(d)
59.   Paragraph 60CC(3)(d) replaces existing paragraph 68F(2)© with a modification.  Subparagraph 68F(2)©(ii) has been modified to make an explicit reference to grandparents or other relatives.  The existing provision provides that, in determining what is in the best interests of a child, the court should consider the likely effect of any change of the child's circumstances particularly in relation to separation from his or her parents and other persons with whom the child has a relationship.  New subparagraph 60CC(3)(d)(ii) makes an explicit reference to grandparents or other relatives.  This change ensures that the court recognises the importance of the relationships that the child has with wider family in particular grandparents.

Amoranthus said
 If anything, it would seem that parents should be there to guide and nurture the new relationships. Instead, animosity and resentment are all that is commonly expressed.
It's not just the "new" parents who need support and guidance, but the children in the new relationship. Excluding the "new" parent doesn't work, that just alienates them - and consequently alienates the child(ren) more.

Yet on these boards, as in so many other venues, the issues of de facto and/or step parents are never discussed.
Is that a mature and responsible attitude given the realities of the society??
I would be inclined to take a more optimistic approach and say that the statement "animosity and resentment are all that is commonly expressed" is somewhat a pessimistic view. Although in my own personal case I have that very situation, which has come about after the mother married the solicitor representing her during years of seriously acrimonious and hugely expensive litigation.  It is indeed a valid point you raise and there are few if any real hard facts.

De facto and Step parents should indeed facilitate the meaningful relationship between children and BOTH parents as is now required in law.

Penalties now exist if one parent fails to facilitate a meaningful relationship with the other parent after separation. I wonder if we should now extend this importnat message and amend legislation components to include defacto /step parents of the children involved.

An interesting situation would exist should the new couple part ways with a further dilution of the family unit and a third or forth set of defacto/step parents involved. How far down would this new legislation change go? O_o

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
 
Secretary_SPCA said
Amoranthus said
How does it make any sense to seek constructive changes to Family Law without dealing with these situations?
We spent a lot of time over the period of the major reforms dealing specifically with extended families, Grandparents and other people important in the children's lives. You do raise an interesting issue that has not had much of an airing. I have scanned through the new legislation and there is nothing really specific in relation to the "new parent"

I would point out a couple of changes in the new legislation that are of relevance and are the closest I can find relating to new partners. Note the change we have had implimented to the new definitions of relative which was changed to include defacto / step parents.

Item 5 - Subsection 4(1)
28.   Item 5 inserts a new definition of 'relative' into the general definitions in subsection 4(1), which now sets out the definitions for Part VII of the Act.  It is a broad definition of 'relative', which includes step-parents, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins.  This definition is relevant for new subsections 63C(2A), 64B(2), paragraphs 60CC(3)(b) and 60CC(3)(f) and subparagraph 60CC(3)(d)(ii).  Item 5 implements recommendation 44 of the LACA Committee which recommended using the term 'step-parent' rather than 'step-father or step mother' in the definition of relative.  This broad definition is intended to ensure the court takes account of other significant relationships that may be of benefit to a child in making children's orders.

Paragraph 60CC(3)(b)
57.   New paragraph 60CC(3)(b) replaces existing paragraph 68F(2)(b) with a modification.  Existing paragraph 68F(2)(b) provides that where the court is determining the best interests of the child, it must consider the nature of the relationship with each of the child's parents and with other persons.  This provision has been modified to include an explicit reference to grandparents or other relatives of the child.  This change further ensures that the court recognises the importance of the relationships that the child has with their wider family, in particular grandparents.

58.   A new consideration in determining what is in the best interests of a child has been added in paragraph 60CC(3)©.  The additional consideration is the willingness and ability of each of the child's parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.  This criterion will need to be considered by the court along with the other criteria set out in subsection 60CC(2) and (3) when making a parenting order.  New subsection 60CC(4) also provides that when considering this factor, the court must consider the extent to which each of the parents has fulfilled or failed to fulfil their parental obligations.  

(It does not intend that the new parent is the other parent)

Paragraph 60CC(3)(d)
59.   Paragraph 60CC(3)(d) replaces existing paragraph 68F(2)© with a modification.  Subparagraph 68F(2)©(ii) has been modified to make an explicit reference to grandparents or other relatives.  The existing provision provides that, in determining what is in the best interests of a child, the court should consider the likely effect of any change of the child's circumstances particularly in relation to separation from his or her parents and other persons with whom the child has a relationship.  New subparagraph 60CC(3)(d)(ii) makes an explicit reference to grandparents or other relatives.  This change ensures that the court recognises the importance of the relationships that the child has with wider family in particular grandparents.

Amoranthus said
 If anything, it would seem that parents should be there to guide and nurture the new relationships. Instead, animosity and resentment are all that is commonly expressed.
It's not just the "new" parents who need support and guidance, but the children in the new relationship. Excluding the "new" parent doesn't work, that just alienates them - and consequently alienates the child(ren) more.

Yet on these boards, as in so many other venues, the issues of de facto and/or step parents are never discussed.
Is that a mature and responsible attitude given the realities of the society??
I would be inclined to take a more optimistic approach and say that the statement "animosity and resentment are all that is commonly expressed" is somewhat a pessimistic view. Although in my own personal case I have that very situation, which has come about after the mother married the solicitor representing her during years of seriously acrimonious and hugely expensive litigation.  It is indeed a valid point you raise and there are few if any real hard facts.

De facto and Step parents should indeed facilitate the meaningful relationship between children and BOTH parents as is now required in law.

Penalties now exist if one parent fails to facilitate a meaningful relationship with the other parent after separation. I wonder if we should now extend this importnat message and amend legislation components to include defacto /step parents of the children involved.

An interesting situation would exist should the new couple part ways with a further dilution of the family unit and a third or forth set of defacto/step parents involved. How far down would this new legislation change go? O_o

 
I wasn't necessarily seeking legislative changes when I wrote the above. My perspective was more to open up the dialogue for understanding the role of the "new" parent(s) and their roles. Frankly, I don't think the courts should be involved in this area of human relationships; much less explicit - if still largely tangential and obscure - references in the law itself.
The idea that there are penalties in the law if one parent fails to facilitate a meaningful relationship with the other parent is at best awkward. The most obvious question, which leads into a deeper understanding of the issues for anyone in a parental role is: How do you define "meaningful"? - And who defines it?

There are special issues for a step parent or de facto partner coming into a broken family with children. I'm reminded of the old saying, "Love me. Love my children.", which can become an absolute unwittingly. The rejection of a new 'parent' is normal. Sooner or later the child will say or think: "S/He is not my parent. Why do I have to /do what they say/listen to him or her/bother to even acknowledge… and so forth.
What the natural parent does is critical, whether they are in the home or out. It's very easy to build on the resentment that comes from the confusions and frustrations of a breakup.
What I do not see is how the courts can play a role in these matters - unless the family is required to live in court, figuratively or nearly literally.
The courts could find themselves trying one case for the divorce, and another for the "meaningful relationship" towards either the step parent, or the non custodial parent.

One disturbing and motivating fact into the mix: More step parents abuse children than natural parents.
Depending on your definition of abuse, that seems an obvious conclusion. I've seen more than one parent who considered any disagreement with their child abuse, unless it came from them! There is a verbal trap there for all concerned.

I'm just throwing out some thoughts to illustrate why I don't think this is a matter for the courts.

Paul D

Last edit: by OneRingRules

Yes I agree that it is not a matter we can legislate on.

We implimented that idea in legislation that there are penalties in the law if one parent fails to facilitate a meaningful relationship for the children with the other parent because time after time we had cases where one parent withheld contact from the other as a means of a vengefull vendetta.

We have at least a start to force those wayward and deliquent parents to order.

The Step Parent issue indeed needs a solid discussion and I am VERY glad it is raised here. I would like to see some stats posted about violence and step parents. :drool:

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
The issue of step parents and other significant people is an important one. Common in orders is a clause stating that the natural parents are the only people allowed to discpline the children. These clauses were basicly meant to prevent 3rd party coporal punishment. A usefull way of addressing the issue may be to word the orders making the parent with direct care, repsponsible to ensure a consistent displine regieme exists in the home.

After digressing a bit, the sudden termination of relationships with extended family and ex-step parents can have as a profound effect upon the child as separation from a natural parent.

The recent decision by the FCA, Samuels & Errington [2007] FamCA, significantly, did not consider that previous consent orders between the mother and the paternal grand parent which confered joint parental responsibility on the paternal grand parents and mother was a significant consideration under the law.

Basicly, reading between the lines, a parents reposibility is paramount, and extended family are relegated to the spends time with category.

For me - Shared Parenting is a Reality - Maybe it can be for you too!
oneadadc said
Common in orders is a clause stating that the natural parents are the only people allowed to discpline the children. These clauses were basicly meant to prevent 3rd party coporal punishment. A usefull way of addressing the issue may be to word the orders making the parent with direct care, repsponsible to ensure a consistent displine regieme exists in the home.
I must say I haven't seen such orders although I have seen orders where the mother has required an order that the step parent may not have a relationship with the child. Not common but I have seen them. Totally ridiculous. I thought corporal punishment was long gone and a distant memory.

There is no direct care order possible as both parents (in most cases) have direct care in some form and a whole range of other responsibilities and offerings under the new laws which has now a rebutable presumption of shered parental responsibility… The terms today in relation to orders are "Lives with" parent and "Spends time with" parent.

oneadadc said
After digressing a bit, the sudden termination of relationships with extended family and ex-step parents can have as a profound effect upon the child as separation from a natural parent.The recent decision by the FCA, Samuels & Errington [2007] FamCA, significantly, did not consider that previous consent orders between the mother and the paternal grand parent which confered joint parental responsibility on the paternal grand parents and mother was a significant consideration under the law.

Basicly, reading between the lines, a parents responsibility is paramount, and extended family are relegated to the spends time with category.
You are absolutely right in law it so seems. However the other issue is that often the "lives with" parent who on past experiences seems to have all, most, or a good deal of the time anyway (At least under the old system) can withold or reduce contact with paternals, step, other close family members, or any other party they desire so as to ensure complete alienation of the child from those previously bonded relationships.

Regardless of what anyone says, regardless of what the law says and from my own observations in the numerous cases I have been involved in, if the lives with parent wants to make it hard for contact then without specific issues orders and without the process of a court hearing they run a free reign to do what they like… Nothing changes the depravities and nasty side of human behaviour when family matters are involved.

It is with some small degree of satisfaction I look back over the last four years of constant submission writing and hearing attendances to see where we came from in legislative terms to where we are today… It is definitely a darn site harder for deliquent parents to abscond from their now clearly stated responsibility to ensure children have a right to know both parents but we have not gone far enough in the relms of protecting any solid step parent relationship after a possible further diluting down from yet a third seperation.

I am also looking forward to reading a few more judgements where GrandParents have had better outcomes…  :(

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
From my involvement with many Fathers, many of them Step Parents as well, and my own experience. Where there is a bond with the step children, and where a trip to court effectively prevents withholding the natural children, the step children become the weapon of choice.

It is definitely a topic that needs significant and informed debate.

For me - Shared Parenting is a Reality - Maybe it can be for you too!
This is exactly my scenario. My ex (bio of 1 and step parent of ten yrs of other) sought sole parental responsibility and was awarded it due to my suffering from pnd and not replying to affidavit accusing me of being an alcoholic and monster. Almost as soon as order was made in his favour, he rejected the older non bio child. She is a bit depressed. Ex doesnt care now or want anything to do with her. Keeping her in the first place was merely an attempt to deceive courts into thinking he was primary carer so he would obtain SPR. 8  months after disowning her, i have to fund legal action to change order that he originally sought
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