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    Does divorce affect your right to ‘sharent’?

    Sharenting after divorce
    Harmless sharing or a breach of privacy? In this current era of social media, most of us have seen online content featuring other people’s children. Celebrities, influencers, family, friends, and even distant acquaintances, document details of their home lives and the children they’re raising via photos, videos and updates, often referred to as ‘sharenting’.
    We’ve been documenting life long before social media. However, the widespread cultural norm of sharing our lives online means that what would previously have been treasured photo albums, family footage and diaries, are now permanent, publicly accessible, digital footprints.
    Abi Jones, Associate and member of the South West & Wales family law team at Stowe, explores the debate further and looks at how divorce can affect your right to share your children on social media.
    Where do you draw the line?
    Maybe you’re marking your kid’s birthday with a nostalgic roundup of photos, sharing the obligatory ‘first day back at school’ snap, or posting snippets of your family holiday. Sharing on Instagram or Facebook is a way of recording these moments for posterity and letting others share in your joy.
    But what one parent considers appropriate, the other might feel less comfortable with. Coparents with differing views about sharenting can find navigating the question of how much to share of your chid online, tricky.
    The process of divorce or separation can widen the gap between your views and nudge you into addressing how best to manage your child’s online presence.
    So, what can you do if you and your ex-partner disagree about how much to share online about your kids?
    When you and your ex disagree about sharenting
    Formal agreements about how parents will care for their children after they’ve split up are usually made using a child arrangements order, a legal order made via the family court.
    However, child arrangements order don’t usually address the boundaries that separated parents set for sharing information about their children online.
    The family court isn’t there to enforce uniform parenting styles. Its role is to ensure that parenting meets a basic minimum standard and that each party has an arrangement that prioritises the children’s well-being—emotionally, physically, and psychologically—and supports their relationship with each parent.
    However, if one party raises concerns about what is being shared on social media by the other parent, the court may have a view on whether it is appropriate and whether it should continue.
    How could Sharenting be included in a Child Arrangements Order?
    It’s possible to include agreed sharenting boundaries in a Child Arrangements Order as either a recital, featuring as a condition of contact, or in extreme circumstances it may be included within a Prohibited Steps Order where the online sharing is deemed as particularly detrimental.
    What if you or your ex ignores the agreed sharenting boundaries?
    The implications of somebody breaching the terms of a Child Arrangements Order or Prohibited Steps Order would depend on the circumstances of the agreement.
    For example, divorced parents include restrictions for sharing content about their children online in their Child Arrangements Order, then years later return to court to amend their order to suit their child’s evolving needs. If during proceedings it emerges that one parent violated the agreement, this breach could affect the court’s perception of that parent and have implications for them as the look to make future child arrangements.
    Balancing parental rights over children’s right to privacy
    There’s ongoing debate about the child’s right to privacy, and whether children should be posted online before they can decide for themselves.
    Parents have the authority to make decisions for their children until they turn 16, when they’re typically considered competent enough to make decisions independently. However, there’s a delicate balance between parental decisions and respecting the child’s right to privacy.
    These competing rights often clash, and there’s currently no clear-cut answer. Ultimately, those with parental responsibility must exercise discretion in what they share online about their child.
    Legalities of sharing social media content without a minor’s consent
    Establishing whether the content shared about a child is appropriate can be challenging for the court but if deemed inappropriate, they may order the content to be removed.
    In some jurisdictions, children who reach maturity have taken their parents to court for breaching their human rights through “sharenting,” but it would be up to the child to take legal action later.
    Other concerns about sharenting
    For the cautious, sharenting poses safeguarding concerns including child exploitation, risks related to facial recognition, identity theft and deep fakes, nefarious use by criminals and security risks like tracking via information shared about home and school locations.
    Other significant considerations include whether it’s ethical to post content about your child online without their consent, and impinge on their human right to privacy. Not to mention how sharing their personal lives might make them feel now, and in the future.
    Get in touch
    If you and your ex would like to look into making a a formal agreement about sharing your children on social media, our family law team can help you. Get in touch using the details below. More

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    How to support teenagers through divorce

    It’s common to worry about how divorce or separation will affect your children, particularly teenagers. Adolescents are already experiencing a natural stage of transformation, so how does divorce affect teenage children?
    Reassuringly, when parents show unwavering love for their child and continue to work together to prioritise the wellbeing of their family, teenagers can adapt to their new family dynamic over time, and thrive.
    In this article, we share advice to help you support your teenage children through your divorce or separation.
    Navigating divorce or separation with teenage children
    Divorce is an unsettling time for any family, but with teenagers’ growing maturity and burgeoning independence, their experience of divorce is different when compared to younger children.
    Teenage independence
    One of the most significant aspects of managing divorce with teenagers is that unlike younger children, their relative maturity means they can form complex views and assert their wishes.
    This can make things challenging as divorcing parents. For example, it means you may see a wider range of emotions compared to younger children, your teenage child might draw conclusions that aren’t based on your family’s reality, and they’re likely to have friends whose parents have separated, which can influence what they expect will happen.
    Telling your teenage child you’re divorcing
    The way you approach conversations with teens about divorce can influence how they take the news and begin to process it.
    Some teenagers may recognise that their parents’ relationship has been under strain, while others may be oblivious. Either way, the news that you’re planning to divorce can still come as a total surprise.
    Here are some suggestions for discussing divorce with teens:

    Share the news together as parents to show you’re still united as parents
    Be honest and upfront
    But spare them unnecessary detail about their parents’ relationship struggles
    Choose a suitable time to discuss divorce, free of distraction
    Don’t leave it until the last minute to tell them or wait until significant changes happen
    Provide detailed information about how the divorce will affect their life
    Explain things in full so they don’t have to fill in the gaps themselves
    Pitch the conversation at the right level for them; don’t dumb down or over-complicate
    Be open to answering teens’ questions
    Prepare yourself for a more self-centered response than younger children
    Give teens space to process their feelings
    Avoid pushing them to talk before they’re ready
    Expect possible boundary testing but maintain consistent rules
    Maintain normalcy in your teens’ routine to provide stability
    If changes are necessary, like moving to a new home, transition gradually
    If a move requires changing schools, consider finishing the term or school year first
    Map out a plan for holidays and special occasions so they can prepare for changes
    Encourage your teen to express their emotions and offer them a safe space to do
    Be present with them as much as you can, to reinforce your ongoing support.

    Seeing separation from their perspective
    Taking the time to see things from your teenager’s perspective is important.
    Avoid second guessing how they feel and instead give them the space to tell you truthfully, even if it’s not what you expect to hear.
    Emotions can range between anger and blame, to feelings of guilt and grief, or even relief. Acknowledge and validate all their feelings.
    Reassure them it’s not their fault
    Children and young people often blame themselves when things go wrong. They might believe the separation wouldn’t have happened if they were different or that they could have prevented it by acting differently.
    Assure them it’s not their fault; children are never responsible for their parents’ divorce or separation.
    Tackle issues that affect them directly
    Divorce is likely to raise significant questions for your teenager like with whom, and where, they will live. Respond to these concerns in full to avoid doubt and unnecessary worry.
    Even if the future outcome is still unknown, let them know when a final decision is likely to be reached and be clear about what the interim plans are.
    Reassure your teenager that they will still see both parents regularly.
    Considering their wishes
    Depending on their age, you might want to discuss future living arrangements with your child, allowing them to choose who they live with. This can spare older teenagers from living between two homes, a common solution for younger families.
    However, be clear that your child will maintain regular contact with both parents.
    Make space for difficult conversations
    Children often experience conflicting emotions during their parents’ separation, and this can be difficult for all involved.
    They may take sides, feeling protective of one parent and angry with the other, or they may even hold themselves responsible.
    Avoid pressuring them to make sense of it all quickly, instead allow them the space to process their feelings at their own pace, with your support.
    Minimise confusion by addressing their concerns directly and fully, in an age-appropriate way.
    Remember, you’re the adult 
    With the best will in the world, you can’t anticipate exactly how your child will process the news of your divorce. Whichever way they react, try to stay non-judgemental and remember all feelings are valid – even if they’re different to yours.
    It’s easy to feel hurt or frustrated when met with insults or silence from your teenager, but it’s essential for parents to remain the grownups in the situation.
    This means refraining from expressing your own frustration or anger at their reaction, and instead maintaining open communication and offering reassurance and guidance.
    Additionally, as the parent, you are responsible for making the effort to remain engaged and connected to your teenagers during and after divorce. Even if they are less enthusiastic while they adjust, keep trying.
    How will divorce affect our teenage children? 
    In some cases, divorce can affect other aspects of a teenager’s life including education, relationships, and wellbeing. As parents, it’s important to be attuned to potential changes as your family transitions to your new normal.
    Divorce and separation are common. By cooperating with your coparent and continuing to put the needs of your children first, you can help your teen navigate all the challenges.
    Kids are resilient, right?
    We often hear how resilient and adaptable children are, and that can certainly be true.
    But while teenagers appear to be coping, deflection or avoidance can be a valid reaction in itself.
    They may not react to divorce in the same manner as young children and adult children of divorce, but teenagers’ emotional experience shouldn’t be overlooked.
    How to support your teenager through your divorce
    Despite the challenges, there are ways that parents can help their teenage children cope with divorce. Open communication, consistency, and maintaining a supportive and loving environment are key.
    However, managing divorce with teenage children requires empathy and patience, not always easy when you’re dealing with your own feelings about the split.
    With your support. parents can help their teenagers navigate the difficult transition and emerge strong on the other side.
    Other useful articles:
    How to support children through divorce
    6 tips for adult children of divorce
    Split decision: How to talk to your children about separation
    My ex and I can’t agree on our child’s school
    The rise in birdnesting after divorce More

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    What do you say to a friend whose marriage is ending?

    Sometimes, when people admit that their marriage is unsustainable, for whatever reason, the reaction of family, friends, even strangers on the internet can be judgmental or pitying. However, what someone in this situation needs are words and actions of support and comfort, as well as professional and legal guidance.
    We are joined on the blog by Divorce Coach Rebecca Spittles, who explores her own experience of the initial stages of separation, and what to say to a friend whose marriage is ending.
    ‘“It’s a shame you couldn’t have just tried a bit harder…”
    Nothing hits harder when you have made the decision to leave. When will people understand that getting divorced is an absolute last resort?
    Contrary to popular belief, and in my experience both personally and professionally, no one actually wants to get divorced. Reaching the point of separation, especially when there are children in the mix, is the most gut wrenching, stomach turning, vomit-inducing feeling you could ever imagine if you’ve not been there.
    I don’t wish divorce on anyone. When I took my vows I took them for life, like my parents, my grandparents and all that surrounded me. I wanted that security and comfort that everyone seeks from marriage. Even simple things I was excited about, for example to have the same surname as my husband and then of my child. It was so, so important.
    Just imagine how it felt when I knew that no matter how hard I tried, the union I was in was not meant to be?
    My parents were amazing. On several occasions I came close to uttering the words separation and every time they would come up with some kind words and injected a bit more strength into me to keep going. Marriage isn’t easy.
    My sister was the best. Constantly encouraging me, being a sounding board but never once suggesting being apart was an option.
    The toughest part of my situation was that, in order for our relationship to be harmonious, one or both of us had to completely stifle their key personality traits. Not sustainable.
    Our opinions on every single little thing were different and it ended with one or both of us feeling sad or resentful or angry as there wasn’t space for compromise.
    Compromise. The word bandied around all the time when it comes to being in a relationship. What if compromise actually meant giving in? Taking on the view of the other person so that life could just about be normal? What if compromise was only one sided and the only way for the other person to ever be happy was to always do what they wanted?
    I made several huge changes. Gave up my brilliant job so I could be at home. Gave up financial independence and poured every penny into the joint account. I started asking to do things and to buy things and slowly I disappeared. But still there was no happiness.
    After 2 long years following the birth of our daughter I asked for a separation. The answer was ‘No’. Clearly, I ‘didn’t care about my marriage’. I did. I wanted it more than I have ever wanted anything in my life to work but I was empty. Nothing left.
    In the end, two days after New Years Eve, I left after a huge row (something I learned is never the best way to leave).
    I picked up our daughter and stepped out of the front door and I will always remember the feeling of this being ‘it’. We were completely over. I drove to my parents with a sleeping toddler, arrived and cried. I cried and cried.
    Eventually he moved out to his Mum’s temporarily so that I could come home with our daughter and work, and she could have contact with her Dad.
    I am writing this so that next time someone utters the words ‘I want to leave my husband/wife’ just listen. Ask why, not so you can tell her why they should stay but so that you can understand quite how far they have come to be able to say this out loud.
    If you’ve been through it, please, please offer comfort, what they don’t need is the gore of your breakup or divorce. There is plenty of time for that later!
    Share your emotion and empathise because you more than many truly know where they are at.
    Finally, for all of us sat with the friend who says their relationship is over, just help. They will be a wreck for a while to come, from being so strong to being a crying mess on the floor. An angry confused teenager-esque stage will rear its ugly head at some point along with bitterness and probably a fair bit of drunkenness.
    Just be there for them. They will come out the other side. They will never be the same again, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.’
    Rebecca Spittles is a Divorce Coach providing personalised emotional and practical support and coaching to help individuals navigate their divorce or separation.
     You can find out more about Rebecca on her website or via her LinkedIn. 
    Useful links
    My partner’s a good person but I’m not happy
    When ‘I do’ becomes ‘I don’t’: Navigating the path to divorce and what to do next
    What to do if you think your marriage is over

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    The Impact of the Housing Crisis on Divorcing Couples

    Whilst the impact of the cost-of-living crisis is ongoing, the housing crisis in the UK has taken a front seat in the media. The market has seen record high mortgage rates which has become a battleground for divorcing couples, as well as sky-high rental prices and a lack of housing.
    These issues are having a significant impact on divorcing couples across the country.
    Housing is often a contentious subject in divorce proceedings, as couples fight over whether to keep the family home, and, if they do, who gets to live in it. As mortgage rates have risen, what to do with the marital property has become an increasingly tricky subject.
    What happens to the home in divorce?
    Generally, there are three options for divorcing couples when it comes to property. The first is to sell the house and pay off whatever mortgage is left. They then divide any equity. This money is used to put a deposit down on a new house or to rent a property.
    The second option is to keep the family home and the mortgage in both names. The couple agree to sell the property at a later date, for example when their youngest child turns 18.
    Finally, in some divorces, one party will buy out the other’s interest in the house and transfer ownership into their sole name.
    If you decide to sell the marital home, equity is apportioned according to various factors, including the borrowing capacity of each party.
    Nevertheless, being able to afford two separate properties is not always guaranteed especially in the current climate.
    If you are unable to come to an agreement with your ex-spouse about your marital property, it may be necessary for the court to step in. Although the court’s starting point will be a 50/50 split of the assets, the decision will be based on fairness, depending on the needs of each party, their future earning capacity, the wellbeing of any children.
    For those going into renting, no-fault evictions are a concern. The government has again delayed the Renters (Reform) Bill. This piece of legislation would improve security for renters as it would impose restrictions and obligations on private landlords, preventing them from evicting tenants without proof under Section 21 of the Housing Act.
    What options are there?
    The housing crisis is making property decisions increasingly difficult. Combined with the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, couples going through divorce are having to think outside the box.
    Birdnesting is one such avenue. This is where the children stay in the family home, and their parents rotate into and out of the house. Each parent will have a set amount of time in the house, dependent on the child arrangement agreement.
    However, this means that they will also need a separate living arrangement, but many turn to friends or family as a temporary solution.
    However, this is not always possible. As the housing crisis continues, we will likely see more divorcing couples coming up with creative solutions to the housing issues.
    It is important to discuss all the avenues available to you with a lawyer. When there has been full financial disclosure, negotiations can begin on what the marital pot will allow.
    Useful Links
    Property in Divorce – what you need to know
    How to financially plan for your divorce: Watch on YouTube
    Top 3 Financial Considerations
    Budgeting Solo in the Cost of Living Crisis: Watch on YouTube
    Can I afford to divorce my partner?
    Dangers of a DIY Divorce: Listen on Spotify
    Taking control of your finances on separation and beyond: Listen on Spotify More

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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