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Second Time Weddings - Family Law (I) dos and don’ts

As wedding season gets into full swing, what are the family law (I) dos and don’ts of second marriages? 

Don’t make children from a previous marriage/relationship ringbearers etc without discussion and agreement from the other parent. There is a balance between ensuring children don’t feel left out and managing their emotions and those of the other parent. A new relationship and marriage can raise heightened emotions generated by separation and divorce and, in the interests of the children, conflict should of course be avoided. Information for separating parents to help avoid conflict over, and in front,  of their children has become increasingly recognised as one of the most important aspects of the divorce process. 

Previously married parents or a father who is named on the child’s birth certificate/has the benefit of a parental responsibility order, share parental responsibility for their children and are entitled to be consulted on important issues. Discussion points with the other parent should include children’s attendance at the wedding, role in the wedding, arrangements for holiday plans after the wedding. In the absence of agreement, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods can be explored to resolve the issues or, particularly in the more urgent case, private arbitration/the Court can deal with an application for a child arrangements order and/or specific issue order, for example for a child to meet a new partner or attend an important event such as a wedding. The arbitrator/court will decide whether this is in the best interests of the child based on all the circumstances; the presumption being, firstly, that the child is entitled to a strong and meaningful relationship with both parents, and, secondly, recognition that the reality of modern life involves blended families and new partners/spouses who will inevitably play a role in the child’s life.

Do consider a prenuptial agreement, including to protect the interests of children from a previous marriage/relationship and ensure that particularly assets generated before the new relationship began are secured.

Do remember that marriage automatically invalidates any existing Will and ensure new Wills are drawn up in contemplation of the marriage or soon afterward. Again, considering the interests of children from a previous marriage/relationship. 

I once went to a wedding where the groom started his speech with the words, ‘As some of you know, I’ve done this before and it didn’t go so well,’ and it was not good. No one wants to hear about the other wedding/s today, not because you’re redacting it from history but because you are looking forward in the presence of friends and family. Don’t make or allow ex jokes. Give a shout out to your kids.

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