Sadly, about one third of current marriages in Australia are likely to end in separation or divorce. Couples in de facto relationships fare even worse; the evidence shows that the separation rate is significantly higher for de facto relationships than for marriages.
But most people are willing to give it another go. The great majority whose first marriage or relationship ends, are likely to remarry or re-partner not too long afterwards.
The question then arises; do such relationships fare better the second time around?
Again regrettably the answer seems to be no. The prospects of success for second marriages and defacto relationships is actually worse than for the first, according to the evidence.
Why? Well, it may be for a number of reasons. Some re-partner too quickly or for the wrong reasons. There are additional challenges in coping with blended families. Also, couples more commonly have children in their first marriage rather than in the second, and the care and welfare of children is often the ‘glue’ that holds many relationships together. That glue may be missing the second time around.
On the other hand, many second marriages and relationships do succeed and are much happier and more successful than the first. The key factor seems to be whether the couple has learnt and benefitted from their previous experience and mistakes. If the relationship is a means of enhancing their lives and sharing their love, rather than relying on the relationship to feel complete, the chance of success seem to be greater.
But there are also financial and legal issues to address. It may seem cynical when you’re about to embark on a committed relationship. But these things should be considered, as nobody knows what lies down the track. It may be advisable to seek legal advice.
Here are some general ‘must dos’.
Make a list of what asset and debts each party is bringing into the relationship and their value. Do some mutual estate planning to allow for your own expectations, as well as those of the children of their previous relationships. Usually you need to do new Wills, Powers of Attorney, and superannuation death benefit nomination at the very least. This promotes harmony and can avoid a later estate dispute.
Consider entering into a Binding Financial Agreement, especially if you have children from a prior relationship and you have complex and significant assets. A Binding Financial Agreement can create a sense of security. But bear in mind it can also undermine the prospects of happiness if it is too favourable to one party. It should be fair and it should recognise the couple’s mutual obligation to support and assist each other, even in the event of a separation.
By setting down clear guidelines and expectations and dealing with problems and issues beforehand, couples can reduce the potential for conflict and help reduce any anxiety involved in making a fresh start.
*Andrew Corish is an Accredited Specialist in Family Law with Corish & Co Specialist Family Lawyers North Sydney