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Step-parents and Child Maintenance

Step-parents and Child Maintenance in Australia

A person can apply to the Child Support Registrar for an assessment of child support payable by a natural or adoptive parent of a child. However, a person cannot apply for a child support assessment payable by a step-parent of a child. Instead, they must apply to a court for an order requiring a step-parent to provide financial support for their step-child. The court can make a child maintenance order requiring step-parents to provide financial support for their step-child if satisfied that the step-parent has a duty to maintain the child.

How the Child Support Assessment works

The Registrar can treat a step-child as a relevant dependent child of a parent in a child support assessment if:

  • there is an order in force under section 66M of the Family Law Act in relation to the child support parent and the step-child, and
  • the child support parent has at least shared care of the step-child. 

 

The inclusion of a relevant dependent child means that a parent has an amount recognising their support of the child deducted from their child support income before calculating child support. However, it is important to note and re-iterate that a step-parent is not required by law to pay child maintenance unless the court has made an order to do so. 

How to get a Child Maintenance Order

To obtain an order under section 66M of the Family Law Act, a person must be a “step-parent” to the child, that is, they must:

  • Not be a parent of the child,
  • Be or have been married to a parent of the child,
  • Treat or, at any time during the marriage, have treated the child as a member of the family formed with the parent (section 4 of the Family Law Act).
 
What are the considerations

In making an order under section 66M the court has to consider:

  • The objects and the principles of the Family Law Act.
  • The length and circumstances of the marriage.
  • The relationship between the step-parent and the child.
  • The arrangements for maintenance of the child; and
  • Any special circumstances which would result in injustice or hardship to any person.
an image of a step-father and his step-daughter, watching the sunset whilst wearing red capes like super heroes, step-parents and child maintenance
What about children in de-facto relationships

A child support parent in a de facto relationship is unlikely to be able to obtain an order under section 66M in relation to the children of their current partner. For an order to be made under section 66M there must be proceedings between the child support parent and the child’s parent about child maintenance.

Need help with your Family Law Settlement?

AussieLegal offers a range of family law services, including the preparation of Binding Child Support Agreements (BCSA). Our BCSA can help you document your agreement about the amount of financial support for your child or children.

We also offer assitance for application for Consent Orders to help you prepare both your financial and parenting orders. This service includes legal advice and certification for both parties in full compliance with the Court. 

Call us on 1300 728 200 to discuss your situation with one of our consultants.

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