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    November Stowe Support roundup

    Stowe Support is a dedicated home for Stowe’s free resources designed to help inform and support anyone with family law concerns.
    With new blogs, guides, podcasts, videos and events shared each month, here’s a handy Stowe Support roundup from the past month in case you missed anything.
    Here’s your monthly roundup of Stowe Support resources in case you missed anything.
    Latest blogs from Stowe
    Divorce finances: How DIY divorce can backfire
    What is a Financial Settlement and How Does It Work?
    Blended families and stepparents: A beginners guide
    Unique Challenges of LGBTQIA+ Divorce
    I’m not the ‘breadwinner’ in my divorce
    How do separated parents split Christmas?
    Watch recent webinars
    Cardiff Break Up Club: Surviving Christmas after separation
    Stowe talks 23/24: Parenting alongside a narcissist with Dr Supriya McKenna
    Listen to Stowe talks podcasts on Spotify

    Stowe Support
    To explore our full range of resources dedicated to helping people with family law matters, visit Stowe Support.
    Here you’ll find a wealth of helpful guides, videos and blogs on divorce and separation, finances, children, domestic abuse, cohabitation, alternative parenting, mediation, as well as support with relationships and wellness. More

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    How do separated parents split Christmas?

    Christmas arrangements for separated parents can be complex as you navigate how to split Christmas so you can both see your children. The usual plans of Christmases past may no longer be an option, and there’s no blueprint for what the holidays should look like now, or how you make them fair.
    There’s a lot to consider. How will the children spend time with each parent? Do divorced parents spend Christmas together? And if not, how do coparents split Christmas?
    Before you make a decision
    The guiding principle of family law is that children’s well being comes first. Neither parent has more right to see their child at Christmas. The benefit of this is that you and your coparent are free to create a plan that’s centred on your children and their needs.
    How do separated parents split Christmas?
    Unless you continue to spend Christmas together, there will need to be some compromise about how you divide your time with your kids. Here are some common options.
    What are my options for splitting Christmas with my ex?
    So, how do you split Christmas when divorced? You and your ex can create a plan that best suits your exact situation, but it’s useful to have a starting point for discussions. Here are some examples:
    Option 1: Split Christmas in half
    Children get to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent, before swapping over to spend the rest of Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the other.
    Depending on when Christmas day lands you might try to align this with your children’s usual routine with each parent. Or you could agree to make an exception and then revert back to your usual routine after the festivities.
    Option 2: Take a week each
    Children get to spend the first week of the school holidays with one parent to celebrate Christmas, and the second week with the other parents over New Year.
    If school holidays stretch over 3 weeks, you could divide the key days and split the rest of the time equally between you.
    Option 3: Have two Christmases
    Children get to celebrate Christmas twice; once on Christmas Day with one parent, and once on a designated day before or after the 25th December with the other.
    While appealing as a solution, it doesn’t altogether remove the question of who gets to spend the real Christmas Day with the children.
    Each of these options can be alternated yearly, on rotation.
    It’s a useful test to ask yourself if you’d be happy with the plans you’re proposing.
    Spending Christmas day with your ex
    Spending Christmas Day together with your children and your ex, is a great option if you’re on good terms and means you don’t have to divide the day up.
    For separated couples who remain friends, Christmas can be a good opportunity to show that you’re still united as parents.
    Before you make the decision, ask yourself if it will create a healthy dynamic on the day for your children and consider whether it risks confusing matters.
    If you and your ex live far apart
    If you and your ex live far apart, splitting Christmas in half would mean your children spending a proportion of their Christmas Day travelling. Be sure your plan is genuinely prioritising them.
    Avoiding Christmas alone
    Celebrating Christmas alone isn’t for everyone, so try to ensure that your plan allows enough time for you or your ex to travel to stay with family or friends whilst not with your children.
    How about new partners?
    Handling Christmas with a blended family comes with additional challenges. There may be differing opinions about whether the children should spend Christmas with a parent and their new partner.
    It’s understandable that this situation can stir strong emotions; after all the new partner may get to spend Christmas Day with your children, when you don’t.
    However hard it is, prioritising the children’s needs is crucial. It’s wise to approach things as you’d want them to be approached.
    Introducing a new partner to children at Christmas isn’t ideal, so collaborating on how and when to introduce any new partners to the children is also essential.
    Seeing the wider family
    Christmas is often a time for seeing loved ones, such as Grandparents. Try to arrange time for your children to see your wider family during the time they spend with you.
    Should separated parents buy joint gifts for their children?
    Splitting costs and continuing to buy your children presents ‘from Mum and Dad’ can send a message that they remain central in your lives even though you’re no longer together.
    Joint present giving is an especially good idea if you will be spending Christmas day altogether. It also helps to avoid competitive gift giving or one parent trying to win favour with lavish presents.
    Agree an overall budget that’s manageable for you both, and the gifts you plan to buy each child. You can also divide the task of buying gifts so that things are equal.
    There is the risk that one parent also buys a separate gift ‘just from them’ so be clear about whether this is part of your agreement or not.
    Put the plan in writing
    Once you and your coparent have reached an agreement, it is a good idea to write it down and send to the other parents via message or email. That way if there are any issues, and misunderstandings, they can be resolved before Christmas.
    Stick to the plan
    It’s vital that you stick to the Christmas arrangements made so that everyone knows what to expect, including the children. This will encourage ongoing cooperation for future Christmases and special occasions.
    Strained relations
    You and your ex have been through a lot. It’s understandable that discussions might be difficult, especially if you’re not on good terms or your partner isn’t concerned with keeping things fair.
    Remember, you can’t control how your former-partner reacts, you can only control your own words and actions.
    During negotiations, communicate with your coparent in person where possible, or speak on a video call or over the phone, where discussions are less likely to be misinterpreted.
    What if we can’t reach an agreement about Christmas?
    If you reach a stalemate making plans for Christmas with your ex, you can take advice from a family lawyer or family mediator who can help you try to find some common ground.
    As a last resort when cooperation is just not possible, you can seek a decision from the family court via a court order called a specific issues order with the help of a specialist family lawyer.
    Splitting Christmas after divorce
    Dealing with Christmas after separation is difficult. Successfully setting aside your differences and reaching an agreement with your ex on how best to guide your family through the celebrations is something you should be proud of.
    Equally, things might not be perfect. And that’s okay too. With ongoing collaboration between you and your ex-partner, you can learn and adjust.
    Get in touch
    If you and your ex-partner can’t agree on how to split time with your children over Christmas, you can contact out family law team to discuss your options.
    Useful links
    Making arrangements for children this Christmas
    Surviving your first Christmas after separation
    Surviving Christmas after separation
    Stowe talks – dealing with conflict about Christmas More

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    Introducing Stowe talks podcast series 4

    Stowe talks podcast
    Series 4 of Stowe talks podcast and videos series has begun. 
    As ever, in each episode hosts Liza and Matt are joined by a special guest to explore a specific topic in detail.
    Alongside our expert guests, in Stowe talks series 4 we explore:

    Parenting alongside a narcissist
    The dangers of DIY divorce
    How to prepare for your financial settlement
    Supporting teenagers through divorce
    Prenups, postnups and petnups
    The unique challenges of a relationship break down in the LGBTQIA+ community
    Creating financial wellbeing following separation
    Supporting male victims of domestic abuse
    Building your family through surrogacy.

    The latest episodes
    Series 4 of Stowe talks begins with ‘Parenting alongside a narcissist’, a 2-part conversation with renowned narcissist expert Dr Supriya McKenna.
    Building on our previous episodes, in part one Dr Supriya starts by explaining what narcissistic personality disorder is and how this manifests in their behaviour, especially during divorce and parenting.
    We then continue the conversation in part two, looking at learning to manage the narcissist behaviour, how to best support your children, dealing with legal and financial abuse, the family court, and learning how to raise the threshold of what triggers you.
    Quick links
    Listen to Stowe talks on spotify
    Watch Stow talks on YouTube More

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    Blended families and stepparents: A beginners guide

    On average, marriages in England and Wales last little over 12 years at the time of divorce. But as people find love again after divorce or separation, blended families are created and family dynamics evolve.
    It’s now estimated that 1 in 3 families in the UK are a blended family, also known as stepfamily.
    In fact, in contrast to traditional stepfamily stereotypes, the narrative of blended families has transformed – even King Charles III is a member of a blended family.
    For many couples, divorce can mark the beginning of a happier new era for them and their children.
    Knowing how to make a blended family work can take time and effort but fuelled by love, the choices made by separated parents can transform a family structure.
    What is a blended family?
    Blended families are created when a couple begin a new life together with their children from one, or both, of their previous relationships.
    What’s behind the increase in blended families?
    Divorce rates are on the rise meaning more people starting new relationships are divorced, with children.
    For example, the latest ONS marriage statistics released in 2022 show that over 32% of marriages include at least one partner who is remarrying. Of course, these figures can’t track the number of couples where one or both partners have previously been in an unmarried relationship.
    Still, it’s understood there are at least 1.1 million children in England and Wales who live in a blended stepfamily.
    Becoming a blended family
    While a positive experience for many, often the most significant concerns when forming a blended family are the integration of new family members and changes to living arrangements.
    Or, perhaps it’s more the reactions of each family member to these inevitable changes, and the emotions they bring, that pose the greatest challenges.
    While parents can appreciate the benefits of becoming a blended family and visualise what their stepfamily homelife could look like in the future, the children may struggle to share that vision. For them it can feel like a huge amount of change, affecting fundamental aspects of their lives, over which they have no control.
    As with any changes, some will take them in their stride, and others will need a greater degree of support and encouragement.
    Introducing a new partner
    Gradually making children aware of a new partner and giving plenty of notice when and how things will change is vital.
    This begins with establishing the right time and approach for introducing a new partner to children, and meeting future stepchildren if their partner also has children.
    Whatever the child’s age, it’s a good idea to prepare them ahead of introductions and offer them a sense of control over the situation. Having some level of control, even if only perceived control, allows us to deal with potentially upsetting or uncomfortable events more effectively.
    Challenges for children of blended families
    There’s a lot for children of blended families to take in. Maybe they’ve come to terms with their parent’s separation, and now there’s more change on the horizon.
    They must navigate the complexities of having stepparents, possibly step-siblings, and even step-grandparents, potentially forging multiple new relationships.
    Sharing loved ones, a home, and belongings with new members of the family can understandably raise worries and negative feelings and behaviour.
    Furthermore, the shift in family roles and responsibilities can become a source of tension, with two sets of parents each with different parenting styles, rules, and routines.
    Harmonising these differences and treating everyone fairly isn’t easy.
    How can I help my blended family succeed?

    Groundwork: It’s beneficial to do plenty of groundwork ahead of any changes to your family to help children process and adapt. Take your time and explain things clearly and openly.
    Communication: Telling children about changes in their living arrangements is a crucial step. Be upfront about what will change and when, and encourage children to ask questions and share any concerns.
    Tact: Handling the integration of new family members and routines delicately and with patience will help avoid unnecessary stress.
    Togetherness: Fostering a sense of unity within blended families can help, through identifying common ground, enjoying shared activities, and establishing new traditions when the time is right.
    Age appropriate: While younger children may adapt more readily, older children and teenagers may find the changes more difficult. Recognising these differences will help you provide the right support for each child’s needs.
    Belonging: Reassuring the child of their central place in the blended family will strengthen relationships and bolster their sense of belonging.
    Regularly connect: Ensure you also give your child one-on-one time where they have your undivided attention to reinforce how much you love and value them. Where it’s safe and appropriate, maintaining a sound connection with the non-residential parent is also important for a child’s well-being.
    Be consistent: Within reason, upholding pre-existing rules and traditions while gradually incorporating new ones helps create a stable environment. This steadiness offers children a sense of security during change.

    Legal considerations for blended families
    When couples create a blended family after separation or divorce it’s worth considering how they can protect their interests for whatever lies ahead.
    Couples who live together but are unmarried may be interested in finding out more about how Cohabitation Agreements can set out agreements regarding finances and children.
    Similarly, couples who are planning to remarry, might benefit from knowing how a prenuptial agreement can offer some financial protection for theirs and their children’s future in the event of divorce.
    With the right approach blended families offer the opportunity for a new beginning and a bigger and more diverse family network. Although evolving family structures demand flexibility, understanding, and effective communication, the rewards could last a lifetime.
    Useful links
    How to successfully co-parent
    Adopting a stepchild
    Stowe talks – How to co-parent calmly and navigate the challenges of blended families with Tom Nash More

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    September Stowe Support roundup

    Stowe Support is a dedicated home for Stowe’s free resources designed to help inform and support anyone with family law concerns.
    With new blogs, guides, podcasts, videos and events shared each month, here’s a handy Stowe Support roundup from the past month in case you missed anything.
    Here’s your monthly roundup of Stowe Support resources in case you missed anything.
    Latest blogs:
    Separating after the summer holidays
    My ex and I can’t agree on our child’s school
    Dealing with Post-Separation Abuse
    Divorce talks – Tips for respectful discussions with your ex
    What happens to the children if me and my ex want to live in two different countries?
    Book your free webinar place
    Stowe talks – Creating financial wellbeing following separation
    How to build a happy blended family with Nichole Farrow
    Watch recent webinars
    Finding the unexpected joy of heartbreak with Rosie Wilby
    Listen to Stowe talks podcasts on Spotify:
    Our next series of Stowe talks podcast will be launched soon.
    In the mean time, you can click to catch up on previous episodes and follow us!
    Stowe Support
    To explore our full range of resources dedicated to helping people with family law matters, visit Stowe Support.
    Here you’ll find a wealth of helpful guides, videos and blogs on divorce and separation, finances, children, domestic abuse, cohabitation, alternative parenting, mediation, as well as support with relationships and wellness. More

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    What happens to the children if me and my ex want to live in two different countries?

    By now, most of us will have seen the stories circulating about Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s divorce. Whilst some parts are reportedly fairly straightforward, like their watertight prenup, it seems there may be some contentious issues regarding their two daughters and child custody battles.
    Seemingly, the young girls have had their official residence in England, the home of Turner, their mother. However, they are currently living in the United States with Jonas and the couple, after some back-and-forth, including a claim of ‘wrongful detention’ and child abduction, have decided to temporarily keep the children in New York. Child custody battles over the country of habitual residence can be extremely stressful for both parents and children.
    Although this may seem like a dispute only the super-wealthy and celebrities have, divorce cases involving children and two different jurisdictions do happen and child abduction in the context of divorce is more common than we may realise.
    Removing a child or children from the jurisdiction (i.e. from England or Wales) without the permission of the Court or the other parent, if there is a Child Arrangements Order or Residence Order in place, is known as international abduction. Sadly, international abduction is becoming increasingly common.
    Parental Child Abduction is where a parent or guardian of a child takes them out of their country of habitual residence – where they normally live – without the permission of others with parental responsibility or the courts.
    If you plan to move away, particularly abroad, after separating from your partner, it is best that this is agreed with your ex before any changes take place to prevent difficulties arising and potentially contentious and costly court proceedings. Mediation can assist in resolving these disputes and keeping the parents relationship amicable, which is in the children’s best interests.
    You can reach an agreement without using a divorce lawyer, but this agreement will not be legally binding should disputes arise down the line. However, for a legally binding document, you will need to obtain a child arrangements order and you should seek legal advice.
    Adding an international element to the situation throws a further spanner in the works as you as parents, or the Court should proceedings go down this route, will need to decide which country is going to be the habitual residence of the children and therefore where the children will live.
    Child custody battles in divorce can be exceptionally complicated, especially when habitual residence comes into play. However, there are laws in place that protect the children, and the child/ren’s wellbeing, along with the arrangements that will be in the children’s best interests, will be the ultimate focus of the family court.
    Whilst the drama of a celebrity divorce such as Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ can seem intense and sometimes overly acrimonious, what is going on behind the scenes is legally difficult as well as being a highly emotionally charged subject.
    Where the children should live if the parents are wanting to split to different countries is usually decided by the court (if the parents cannot agree), but further obstacles can arise with which country’s legal system should make the decision which may be the case for Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ girls given that they are currently staying in New York.
    It is essential if you find yourself in a multi-jurisdictional dispute, i.e. child custody battles across two different countries, that you seek professional advice from a lawyer in all jurisdictions concerned to ensure the enforceability of any order made. Our lawyers at Stowe are experts in tricky child cases and will be able to support you, and your children, through your unique situation.
    Useful Links
    Changing a Child Arrangements Order
    Bristol Break Up Club: Will divorce damage my children?
    Co-parenting calmly
    Supporting children through divorce More

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    My ex and I can’t agree on our child’s school

    What happens when separated parents can’t agree on schools?
    Now the autumn term is underway, the admissions window for school placements next September is now open. It’s a big decision for all parents and their children, but for separated parents it can become even more complicated – especially if they do not agree. For some, it can cause considerable tension between ex-partners, particularly as there is a finite deadline.
    Does my ex have the right to choose our child’s school even if I have primary care responsibilities?
    Choosing a school or changing a school can be approached as a standalone issue, regardless of who has primary care responsibilities.
    If your ex has parental responsibility, they have a duty and obligation as well as the right to decide how your child(ren) is educated. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, it is likely that your ex still has parental responsibility and therefore has a voice in the decision of your child’s school.
    Even if both parents have the child’s best interests at heart, this can still mean that they struggle to agree on the right school. A huge number of factors are involved in this decision and ultimately the well-being and education of the child(ren) should be central to the decision.
    Choosing the right school
    When going through a divorce or separation, children can often be caught in the middle of parental disputes.
    Supporting children through divorce can be difficult for parents as they may be experiencing turbulent emotions, however, divorce can have long-lasting impacts on a child’s emotional and mental health, no matter their age.
    Schools are a safe space for children to cope with the difficulties going on at home. They provide routine, structure and community so choosing the right one is very important.
    When considering changing school, and approaching an application, the practicalities of this change should be considered. For example, how the child(ren) will get to and from school, the academic credentials of the institution, and pastoral factors. The emotional and well-being aspect for the child must be central.
    If you can’t agree on your child’s school
    If you and your ex find that you can’t agree on a school, there are some steps you can take before involving the court.
    Having an open and honest conversation with your ex-partner, or anyone who shares parental responsibility is very important. You may find that there is some common ground.
    If you are having difficulties broaching the conversation with your ex, seeking out some professional support, for example from a mediator or even a divorce coach can help.
    Should these methods not work, and you find yourselves still disagreeing, then the matter can be referred to the court through a Specific Issue Order application. The court will consider the position of each parent and order where the child should go to school.
    You can also apply for a Specific Issue Order if you are not the child’s biological parent, but you have parental responsibility. For example, this can apply if you are the child’s legal guardian, or who the child lives with under the Child Arrangements Order.
    The court will be guided specifically by the welfare checklist which is laid out in s1(3) of the Children Act 1989.
    They will ensure the welfare of the child is the primary concern in decision making. This includes the wishes and feelings of the child, depending on their age and understanding, as well as their physical, emotional, and educational needs.
    The court will also consider what the impact of a change of school is likely to have on the child.
    Help with reaching a decision about schools
    For separating and divorcing parents, where their child/children should live and go to school is of the utmost importance. Should you find yourself at a deadlock with your ex-spouse over schooling, there are steps that can be taken, and professional support can be sought out.
    With applications for schools and changing schools now open, these next few weeks could be key decision-making time. There is guidance available to help ensure that your child’s welfare remains paramount, and their educational needs are met, particularly during a time of change in the home.
    Useful Links:
    Webinar: Will divorce damage my children?
    Making child arrangements
    Webinar: Supporting children through divorce
    Child arrangements order
    Effects of divorce on children More

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    Separating after the summer holidays

    The long six weeks summer holiday are finally coming to an end. The uniform has been bought, school shoes polished, new bags lined up in the hallway.
    September is a time for new beginnings, as the school year starts and children go into new classes, or even new schools.
    The start of the school year can be a turning point in relationships, as many who have put up with their spouse throughout the long holidays reach the end of their tether and start to investigate divorce proceedings.
    As divorce lawyers, we often see a rise in people enquiring about divorcing their partner as soon as the kids return to school.
    Looking at these in relation to the summer months, there is a lull as couples and families go on holiday and try to enjoy the (hopefully) nicer weather. August tends to be a quieter month for family lawyers.
    After the summer holidays, money troubles can raise their heads – and this is especially poignant in the difficult economic climate. Not only this, but spending extended periods of time together can expose the cracks in the relationship. Just think back to the surge in divorces after the pandemic lockdowns!
    So, if you are thinking about separating after the summer holidays, what are the next steps?
    Getting a divorce
    Although much of the initial divorce process can be completed online, it is important to seek specialist legal advice, particularly when it comes to your finances.
    The first stage of the divorce process is to complete a divorce application by filling in a Form D8 online or by post. Following this, you will have a 20-week cooling off period before you can apply for the conditional order.
    After another 6 weeks, you can apply to have the final order granted, legally dissolving your marriage. However, this does not automatically break the financial ties you and your ex-spouse had within your marriage.
    Financial settlements
    Money and assets must be dealt with in their own right during the divorce process, otherwise you can remain financially tied to your ex-spouse as financial obligations are not automatically ended when you get divorced. A consent order must be in place to ensure the settlement is final and enforceable.
    Financial settlements can get complicated, which is why we have a network of Financial Advisers, pension, property and budget experts and accountants on hand to support you.
    What about the children?
    The divorce process can be a huge upheaval for children. School and other regular activities provide routine and a sense of security, so keeping this as central is vital for mitigating feelings of displacement and anxiety.
    A poorly managed divorce can have long-term impacts on children, potentially causing separation anxiety in younger children, or resentment and distancing for older children.
    There is professional and legal support available for parents dealing with children, whether infants or teens, and for the children themselves. Information on how to manage children during a divorce can be found here.
    Divorce coaches are very helpful when it comes to dealing with emotional and practical decisions, and expert legal advice should be sought when thinking about child arrangement orders.
    Divorce can be scary, so we have specialist lawyers and professionals to help you every step of the way. Please seek help to support you through this journey.
    Useful links
    Watch Stowe talks – Beginners guide to divorce
    Financial Settlement FAQs
    Avoiding Financial Mistakes
    Helping your children understand your divorce
    Impact of conflict during divorce on children More