Program 1: Defining the Family Unit: Parental Rights and Responsibilities in Blended Families
Blended families come in a number of different forms. Increasing re-partnering at all stages of adult life has meant that step-parenting has become a more common relationship, bringing with it some challenging issues. This session examines the parental status of the parties in blended family situations, along with the responsibilities that follow. It covers:
- What is the definition of a step-parent in family law?
- When does a person have legal parental responsibility? What does legal parental responsibility allow a parent to do?
- Can a step-parent acquire legal parental authority and through what means?
- Practical matters for inclusion in parenting orders for step-parents
- When can a parenting order be made? What will the courts consider?
- Considerations for adopting a step-child: Cowap v Cowap  NSWCA 19
- Step-parent liability for supporting a step-child
- What are the rights and obligations of a step-parent to a step-child when the relationship with the biological parent ends?
- How many parents does the law recognise? Adoption, foster parenting and other relationships
- Has Masson v Parsons  HCA 21 changed the legal landscape for who is a “parent”?
Program 2: Drafting Binding Financial Agreements for Second and Subsequent Relationships involving Blended Families
Binding Financial Agreements have become a very useful tool for managing the complex issues arising in blended families. This session will provide a guide to drafting a document which gives parties in blended families greater certainty about asset allocation and other financial obligations in the event of marriage breakdown or circumstances such as involuntary separation or death, including:
- When is a BFA appropriate and at what stage in a relationship?
- What should be in a BFA for blended families? Key essentials such as:
- asset identification and allocation
- single asset BFAs
- financial responsibilities now and into the future
- expectations in the event of anticipated or unexpected eventualities such as incapacity, death and re-partnering
- intentions for respective and specified children
- Can a BFA contain clauses relating to situations beyond the lifetime of one or more of the parties?
- How enforceable is a BFA following the death or incapacity of one partner?
- What happens if a BFA and a will contain inconsistent provisions?
- Cases and examples of challenges to a BFA
- Drafting tips for BFAs in a blended family situation
Program 3: Lessons from the Courts in Family Provision Claims in Blended Families
Concerned that their inheritance is at risk from second or subsequent relationships, children of first marriages are increasingly turning to the courts for protection and for a greater share of their biological parent’s estate. This session will provide an insight into current trends and lessons from the courts in these matters, including:
- Eligibility of step-children to make a claim and jurisdictional differences
- Can step-children in de facto relationships make a family provision claim: Scott-Mackenzie v Bail  VSCA 108
- Can step-grandchildren make a claim?
- When should a claim be made? Upon the death of the parent or the later death of a step-parent? Haertsch v Whiteway  NSWSC 133
- Time limits for making a claim
- What factors will the courts take into account in determining a claim in a blended family situation?
- The importance of pre-planning and agreements: Lowe v Lowe (No 2)  NSWSC 16
- Will a claim in equity have a better chance of success?
- Recent cases and examples
- Tips for avoiding and minimising family provision claims in blended families
Program 4: Protecting the House for the Spouse in a Blended Family
Planning in blended families takes on its most difficult form when it comes to the family home. This session will examine the options for future planning for when one partner dies leaving a second or later spouse or family living in the most valuable asset of the deceased’s estate, including:
- The value of being on title
- Life interests – the benefits and disadvantages
- How is a life interest created?
- Should any limitations or restrictions be placed on a life interest?
- How can a life interest take aging and health into account?
- Characteristics of a right to reside
- What conditions can be attached to a right to reside?
- How is the occupier restricted in their use of the property? When does a right to reside cease?
- Financial and taxation consequences of life interests and rights to reside
- Using a testamentary trust as a vehicle for a life interest and right to occupy
- Can a life interest or right to reside be challenged? Cases and examples
Program 5: Wish Me Luck When You Wave Me Goodbye: Aged Care Separation in Blended Families
Significant legal issues can arise when one parent in a blended family goes into residential aged care, leaving a later spouse and children in the family home. This session will consider the implications of this move and provide advice on what strategies need to be considered to manage this process, including:
- Does a relationship end when one partner moves into aged care?
- What are the rights and options for the partner remaining in the family home, particularly if they are not the asset owner?
- Does residency of one partner in aged care constitute “separation” for family law even if it is involuntary? Stanford & Stanford  HCA 52
- Can a court make property and other orders under these circumstances? What considerations will be taken into account?
- What is the situation if the party in care has dementia?
- What is the impact of aged care separation on de facto partners? In the Estate of HRA Deceased  QSC 29
- Planning strategies for blended families in the event of an involuntary separation