"Do you mind?! I am just trying to have a quiet meal with my secret other family!"The ultimate way to introduce Parental Issues short of a murder plot. Your dad is revealed to have been hiding a life with a whole other family. In fact, if he's sneaky enough, from that family's perspective, yours might be the Secret Other Family. The secret family might eventually be folded into the main one if the legal spouse dies and the other decides to get Remarried to the Mistress.
— Mayor Quimby, The Simpsons
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Mushishi, Ginko helps a woman and her son; the woman's husband is missing, and neither of them know what became of him. In the end, they find him living with his other family and child. Bittersweetly, the woman will never remember it, because of her anterograde amnesia. But she won't have to deal with the pain of knowing her beloved husband left her, either.
- Satoshi Oginome in Mawaru-Penguindrum either falls under this or Parent with New Paramour as we find out in Episode 8. His child from his first marriage, Ringo does not take it well.
- Takeshi Kitano's Kikujiro no Natsu has this as a MacGuffin.
- One of the characters of The Vertical Ray of the Sun by Tran Anh Hung has a Secret Other Family which he regularly visits while ostensibly on photographic field trips. His wife later says that she knew all along, as he couldn't refrain from putting his other wife and kid in too many of his pictures.
- The Captain's Paradise had Alec Guinness as a naval captain trying to keep his wife in Algiers unknown to his wife in Gibraltar and vice versa.
- Eulogy: This is part of the Video Will Reveal.
- What drives the main plot of People Like Us, as the main character finds out he has a long-lost sister from another family his father had.
- Frequent Flyer has a pilot having a wife in Dallas and another in Chicago. And then he ended up getting married to a third one in Hawaii.
- The 1953 film The Bigamist.
- In Girl Shy the cad who is about to marry Harold Lloyd's girlfriend is revealed to already have a wife hidden away in the country.
- In Zero Focus, Teiko's investigation into the mysterious disappearance of her husband Kenichi eventually reveals that Kenichi had a second wife hidden away in the county.
- Pasquinel in the novel (and later miniseries) Centennial.
- According to one of the Armsmen in the Vorkosigan Saga, one of the other Armsmen has one family in the city and one in the country.
- A legionnaire in Codex Alera had to transfer far away from both of his usual postings when the wife in post A learned about the wife in post B.
- The book No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay used this trope. The protagonist and narrator was married to a woman called Cynthia, and her father was secretly married to another woman. He used his job as an excuse to keep an eye on both families. His first wife was an abusive, domineering psycho who turned their son against him. While working, he met Cynthia's future mother, they hit it off, had Cynthia and an elder brother, and he managed to keep the act going for years. Then the first wife, suspicious, discovered the second family, killed the mother and son while they were shopping, and was about to kill Cynthia until the father promised to never have contact with her again.
- In the Montague Egg short story False Weight, the late Mr. Wagstaffe had, under various aliases, wooed and married a woman in his every port of call. When the truth came out, there was a blunt object with his name on it.
- In the P. G. Wodehouse story The Luck Of The Bodkins, about a transatlantic steamer, the author writes that on landing in New York, those of the crew "who are bigamists have long since got over the pang of parting from their wives and children in Southampton and are looking forward with bright affection to meeting their wives and children in New York."
- The financial difficulties arising from supporting a Secret Other Family (Especially since wife #2 had a taste for extremely expensive dresses) was the criminal's motive in the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze.
- Shows up once or twice in Judge Dee, usually due to a jealous First Wife denying her husband any concubines.
- In Lives of the Monster Dogs Augustus Rank, the creator of the titular Dogs, discovered that his father had one of these after his mother died and his father moved back in with his mistress, whom he formally married shortly after. Later on Augustus murdered his half brother from that relationship after he found out that they were competing for the same woman and that his brother planned to run away with her.
- In The Mortal Instruments Jace was unaware of Sebastian's existence, which led him to believe that he was Valentine's real son. Also Clary's father and brother.
- Near the end of After Her by Joyce Maynard the narrator Rachel discovers that her (now deceased) father had a daughter he never told them about when the now-adult woman approaches her at a book signing. In a variation everyone was aware of the relationship that produced her and their father had been divorced from Rachel's mother (who's implied to have known about the girl's existence and not cared) for years by the time the other girl was born, but he never told Rachel and her sister Patti about her because Rachel once swore in a fit of anger she'd never forgive him if he had another child. At first Rachel rejects her half-sister, but the two reconcile after she saves Rachel from the Serial Killer who her father had tried and failed to find all those years ago.
Live Action TV
- Speculated by Roseanne in "Kansas City, Here We Come" when they discover their father's decades-long affair. "Roseanne, Dad could have kids with this woman. They would be, like... Darlene's age." "Oh, man, that would serve him right."
- Jack's dad on Lost: implied late in season 3, spelled out in the fourth season finale.
- Chris-In-The-Morning's dad on Northern Exposure.
- The murder victim in the CSI episode "Grissom Versus the Volcano".
- In "Divorce Party" of CSI: Miami also had the father who had a Secret Other Family murdered by his own son after the son discovered that he had been dating his half-sister. They fell in love and were having a baby together.
- Shawn on Boy Meets World discovers that his dad had another family, and that he has a half-brother he never knew about.
- The premise of Brothers and Sisters. Rumor has it that the spare illegitimate daughter is eventually revealed to have another father altogether.
- Don Geiss in 30 Rock turned out to have a secret Canadian family and a secret attic family.
- In The Big Bang Theory, after his mother dies, Howard discovers that his absent father remarried and he had a younger half brother who tracks him down.
- In Malcolm in the Middle, Lois' father had a secret other family that he treated much better than his own. Ida simply cheated on him and conceived Lois with another man.
- The bartender from Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire.
- King Silas maintains a second family in the countryside on Kings. Of course, since he's the king, his mistress is fully aware that he's married.
- There was an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where a pillar of the community turned out to have maintained two families for a long time. Then two of his children started a relationship, without knowing they were half-siblings.
- The victim in an episode of Bones had two wives and a kid by each, both with the same degenerative bone condition that he had. Interestingly his two wives and the third woman he'd been romancing were not the ones who killed him.
- The victim in an episode of Life - "Farthingale" - had two wives under two different names. Turns out he was living a triple life, in reality an employee of the IRS, and was killed by an anti-government bomber.
- In one episode of Castle, a man is found dead and his wife and fiancee both show up to claim the body. Except that he and the fiancee were both playing each other, in a complicated bit of corporate espionage.
- The whole premise of Lone Star: Bob is a Con Man who maintains two separate lives with two different women, and claims to love both of them.
- Quantum Leap: Sam leaps into a man who has two families, and decides that he's there so both wives will break up with him and go on to lead successful lives of their own. He gets them both to break up with him by admitting to both that he's a bigamist; then just before he leaps the third wife & family show up.
- On The Drew Carey Show Drew winds up married to his long-time friend/obvious series-long Love Interest Kate and an old girlfriend at the same time. (This happens shortly after he was in a mental hospital, so he may not have been thinking clearly.) He tries to keep them from knowing about each other until he can figure out what to do, only for them to figure it out and both leave his life permanently.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gul Dukat had a wife and seven children. He was very proud of them. That didn't stop him having a Secret Other Family of the most scandalous kind possibly for a Cardassian in his position of power: a Bajoran lover he had a Bajoran betrothal pledge with and their half-Cardassian, half-Bajoran daughter.
- In one episode of The Closer, a man, his wife and their young daughter are brutally murdered. The only surviving family member, a teenage boy, is initially the prime suspect, but the actual killer turns out to be the man's other teenage son, who had discovered that his dad had another family.
- On Third Watch, after a much-publicized rescue, police officer Ty is approached by a young woman. Assuming she's romantically interested in him, he takes her to dinner, only for her to reveal that she's his sister—the child of a woman with whom his father had a long-term affair. When he reveals this to his other sister, she admits that she already knew and had met the girl for lunch several times, then informs him that their mother knows as well, citing a weekend when they were abruptly sent to stay with an aunt as a time when their parents were trying to work things out. When Ty confides in his partner Sully (who had been his father's partner), it turns out HE knew also. Ty is left utterly disillusioned with the memories of his father and infuriated at everyone for concealing the truth from him.
- Vera: The Victim of the Week in "Death of a Family Man" is revealed to be living this kind of double-life.
- On Sisters, the titular four sisters learn that they have another sister, the child of their father's mistress, when the woman's doctor approaches them in need of a bone marrow donation (she has leukemia). After much pressuring from the sisters to meet the woman, the doctor finally admits that she is their half-sister. When the girls break the news to their mother, she isn't surprised (though she didn't know), as his relationship with the mistress was as long their own marriage.
- Rizzoli & Isles: In "Family Matters", the Victim of the Week has wives in two different states. The wives team up in order to murder him.
- Banacek: In "The Three Million Dollar Piracy", Banacek discovers that one of the suspects is married to two different women. A ship's officer, he maintains the charade by telling one wife that he is shipping out a couple of weeks before he actually does, and telling the other that he is returning two weeks after he actually does.
- All My Children: Del Henry came to town and rapidly befriended local Mary Sue Dixie Cooney, much to the alarm of Dixie's husband Tad, who feared that Del was a psycho. When the couple confronted Del about his intentions, he denied being in love with Dixie and revealed that he was in fact her brother, the result of an affair their father had had with his mother.
- No Tomorrow: Xavier's father took up with another woman while his mother was still alive, and they had a daughter less than half a year after she died.
- Public Eye :Episode "The Man Who Didn't Eat Sweets"; PI Frank Marker (Alfred Burke) is asked by a woman who finds a photo in her husband's wallet of an unidentified teenage girl to find out who she is; Marker follows the husband and finds he has not one but TWO Secret Other Families, none of whom are aware of the others. Marker confronts the man and persuades him that this situation cannot continue and that he must break up with two of them; he then tells his client that the girl in the photo is a daughter by a previous marriage. In the last scene we see the husband making two telephone calls...
- Supernatural: Several years after John's death, Sam and Dean discovered that John had a third son that he would periodically visit while he left them in a motel while he supposedly was on a hunting trip. Seeing the effect that hunting had on Sam and Dean, John wanted Adam to have a chance at a normal life, but it didn't work. Adam and his mother were killed by ghouls who wanted revenge, but couldn't get it because John had already died.
- London's Burning:
Bulstrode: "The only other fireman I ever met who knew anything about prisons had done time for bigamy."
- Mentioned off-handedly in one episode where Area Commander Bulstrode informs Station Officer Georgiadis that a senior officer who specialises in dealing with prisons is coming to the division after a major fire at a Young Offenders Institution.
- Vaseline never gets around to actually marrying either of them, but spends most of the first season juggling two girlfriends, both called Marion. It's strongly implied he chose to woo the second Marion specifically so he wouldn't have to worry about accidentally calling either of them by the other's name, earning him a mixture of contempt and grudging admiration from the rest of Blue Watch for his sheer chutzpah.
- "It is revealed that the reason Billy takes over as cartoonist for a week every now and then is that Daddy's visiting his secret other family out in the country." — Ways to make Family Circus funny
- Taken to deliberately absurd lengths in series 4 of Bleak Expectations, when Harry Biscuit, paranoid about losing his new wife to the villain who stole his last one, marries 92 other women as spares and must then prevent any of them from meeting. For added ludicrousness, this takes place confined to a ship in the middle of the ocean. Upon arriving in America, Harry solves his problem by becoming a Mormon - Whereupon, of course, all 93 wives immediately desert him for the villain.
- In the Sherlock Holmes radio drama "The Peculiar Persecution of Mr John Harden", the title character is a millionaire who turns out to have yearned for a simpler life, an urge he indulges by having a secret life and family in a small village in Wales. Neither his Welsh family nor his wife in his own identity are aware of the deception, and his son is extraordinarily pissed off when he finds out.
- As shown above, Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons.
- Snowball V/II was secretly visiting another family that considered her their cat.
- A commercial of pills to help people sleep had a list of things that make people too worried to sleep. "Secret Other Family" was in the list.
- Family Guy did a joke about Peter having one.
- Except Peter was the mother. He dressed as a stereotypical housewife and spoke in falsetto.
- American Dad! had an episode where Roger, their live-in alien friend, was secretly a part of/spending time with dozens of other families as well. This was treated as if he was having an affair.
- In Dragons: Race to the Edge, Tuffnut acts as though this is what is going on when he discovers that his pet chicken has been sneaking out to visit a rooster and has a number of chicks.
- Real Life example: Vito Fossella, a Congressman from New York City, was arrested for drunk driving in Alexandria, Virginia. When a member of his Virginian Secret Other Family came to pick him up, guess who didn't get to run for re-election...
- Chris McCandless, who's had the book Into the Wild based on him (and a movie based on that book), found out his dad had another family. At least, it was secret to him and his sister. His mother knew, and in fact it was why they moved at one point.
- The late French president Francois Mitterrand revealed to the public shortly before leaving office that he had a Secret Other Family. The French have always taken a fairly relaxed view of their politicians getting up to this sort of thing so it didn't really affect his approval rating, except possibly with his wife, and both families were present together at his funeral.
- Knowing that he had taken good care of his illegitimate daughter actually made him more popular and sympathetic.
- Eva Peron was one of the daughters in a wealthy rancher's Secret Other Family; however, on his death her father left the family a document stating that the children were his so they could use his surname, Duarte. However Eva, her mother and siblings were still refused entrance to his funeral and his death left them absolutely, desperately poor.
- A variant sometimes happens with free-range pets, especially cats, who simply go from one "owner" to another to get extra food.
- Josef Fritzl started a Squick-y one of these with his daughter Elisabeth. He imprisoned her in the cellar when she was eighteen years old and she was successfully kept there for twenty-four years. Meanwhile, Josef raped her enough times that she gave birth to seven children all fathered by him. And the way Elisabeth and the three children who he kept down there with her lived, they were certainly one of these for Josef Fritzl, with himself as the loving and benevolent patriarch who would come down to give his other wife (Elisabeth) flowers and have consensual (as he described it) sex with her and spend time with their children.
- Twenty-nine years after his death it was discovered that Charles Lindbergh had three of these in Europe, fathering seven illegitimate children between 1958 and 1967 as part of a strange eugenics-inspired belief that he should spread his superior genes as much as possible. His children were unaware of their father's true identity until the 1980s.
- Lord Wigg, Paymaster-General under British Prime Minister Harold Wilson's two terms in office; MI-5 (the British Secret Service) found out about his two families and blackmailed him into leaking details of Cabinet Meetings to them; they then leaked the details to journalist Chapman Pincher at the Daily Express newspaper, which was unsympathetic to Wilson's Labour Party, putting the worst possible spin on Wilson's proposed policies even before they were announced to the public; it was Wilson's discovery of Wigg's treachery that caused his resignation in 1976.
- H.H. Holmes, often considered America's first (or at least first well known) Serial Killer and a textbook example of The Sociopath pulled this off two times by marrying three different women over the course of his life, the second while still legally married to his first wife, who he had abandoned in Vermont and filed for divorce from but never finalized. Myrta, his second wife, had a daughter with him and was completely unaware of his dual life, as was Georgiana, his third wife, who he married several years later while still legally married to Myrta. And that's not even getting into his various affairs, most of which ended when he killed his lovers in his elaborate Torture Cellar.
- Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon suffered some embarrassment in 2016 when it was revealed that, along with his wife and four children, he had a mistress and two more children. But since Colon was immensely popular with the Met fanbase the scandal passed.