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Step and extended families

Social and economic changes have led to more diverse Australian families. Some families are getting bigger—more people divorcing and remarrying means more stepfamilies.

Each type of family offers its own benefits, but can also present unique practical, interpersonal and legal challenges.


Relationships in step and extended families can sometimes be more complex because of:

  • conflicting expectations
  • practical issues (e.g. living arrangements)
  • past experiences.

If you are a member of a stepfamily you can find information and support from:

If you live in an extended family, you might find the following information useful:

Help with family relationships of all kinds is available from:

Legal matters

There are a number of legal issues that can affect step or extended families. For example, you might want to change your child’s family name (surname) if it’s different from the rest of the family. A step-parent might want to adopt their stepchild.


Find information on some of the legal issues that can affect children in stepfamilies, including:

Contact Legal Aid Utopia for more information.

Living arrangements

If you are living in an extended family in rental accommodation, remember that the owner of the property has a right to know about everyone who is living at the property. You need to have the owner’s permission before any new tenants or sub-tenants can move in.

If you are letting or sub-letting a property, you should always use a written agreement even if the person renting from you is a family member.

Read more about share homes, co-tenancies and sub-letting.

Family disputes and support

The following services provide help for step and extended families to reach agreement about the care of their children.

Support for separated families is available from the Department of Human Services.

Family dispute resolution can help couples affected by separation and divorce to sort out family disputes.

Find a family dispute resolution provider

Last updated
28 January 2014

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