Does a Step-Parent Have Legal Parental Responsibilities?

Families, like people, come in all shapes and sizes and the blended family is becoming increasingly common. Stepparents are a prominent and increasingly common part of many families’ structure. The relationship between a step-parent and a step-child can be strong, and more often than not, they play a formative role in a child’s upbringing, giving them yet another adult to rely on and look to for guidance.

Yet, while the emotional connections between step-parents and their children can be strong, the legal connections between them may be less concrete.

While a step-parent often performs many of the daily tasks of a parent, they do not have a right to shared parental responsibilities or custody rights in Australia. This is because no legal relationship exists between the step-parent and step-child. Parental responsibility, which in relation to a child, means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to a child.

As a result of this, a step-parent is not legally able to:

  1. Authorise Medical Care/Make decisions about the child’s health care;
  2. Make decisions about the child’s education or sign school forms;
  3. Make decisions about the child’s religion;
  4. Apply for passports and/or obtain birth certificates.

However, there is an exception should an emergency medical situation occur, if neither of the child’s biological parents is available, a step-parent may be asked to give consent for a procedure.

There are different routes for obtaining legal rights and responsibilities for stepchildren, such as parenting orders, adoption and legal guardianship.

At The Family Lawyer we can help you in all aspects of family law matters. For a free 15 minutes consultation contact The Family Lawyer by calling (03) 8657 3751 or emailing to


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Kristdel Bolog

Founder & Head of Family Law

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