After a family separates, this presumption continues and it can only be changed by a Court Order, where in very limited circumstances, a parent may seek an order for sole parental responsibility such that they are the only person responsible for making decisions for the child. In making an Order for sole parental responsibility, the Court will consider the best interests of the child.
In the event of the death of a parent, parental responsibility passes to the surviving biological parent; not automatically to a surviving stepparent.
Though stepparents can and do carry out parenting roles, they do not automatically, as a matter of right, assume the legal parental responsibility of a child. As a result, ordinarily stepparents are not legally able to authorise medical care, sign school forms, apply for passports and/or obtain birth certificates etc. An exception lies with emergency medical situations where neither biological parent is able to provide consent to an operation, a stepparent may be consulted to provide consent.