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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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    Family Court Fees to Rise

    The Family Court fees are expected to rise soon, as a result of the Government’s proposal that court fees should increase by up to 10% in 2024. It is anticipated that these changes will happen in April 2024.
    The Ministry of Justice has stated that ‘implementing increases to court and tribunal fees is vital to our ongoing work to protect access to the courts for all those who seek justice.’
    The aim is to ensure that the courts can be properly resourced, as the increases will generate between £34 million and £42 million a year.
    Court fees have not increased since 2021, and the incoming change is to ensure that the courts can keep pace with increased costs, as well as improving service and reduce the taxpayer’s costs. The increased income will also support in subsidising the cost of the free services offered by the family courts.
    Prospective changes will include changes to the cost of getting a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, as well as price increases for child arrangements orders, financial orders that are not by consent, and applications for parental orders.
    Below we break down the changes.
    When the changes come in, the cost of a divorce/civil partnership dissolution application is set to rise from £593 to £652.
    Child arrangements orders will also see an increase in cost, rising from £232 to £255. Child arrangements orders are put in place by the court to set out responsibilities regarding children, including their living arrangements and their contact with both parents.
    Other children issues will also see the same cost increase, including orders such as Specific Issue Orders, Prohibited Steps Orders and Special Guardianship Orders, as well as applications for parental orders.
    The cost of an application for adoption, or permission to apply for adoption will rise from £183 to £201.
    A financial order application, not by consent, will see a cost rise from £275 to £303.
    In addition, financial consent orders are set to rise from £53 to £58.
    The Government website has a full breakdown of all the fee changes. More

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    Pathfinder Pilot Scheme Expanded

    Background and Purpose
    In March 2022, a pioneering pilot scheme, known as the Pathfinder pilot, was launched in some family courts in Dorset and North Wales to help improve information sharing between services such as the police and local authorities and the courts. It followed on from a review into the family justice system which concluded that the adversarial processes often worsened conflict between parents, retraumatising abuse victims and children.
    A crucial element of the Pathfinder pilot scheme is to enable local domestic abuse authorities to share important information with the courts, sparing abuse victims the painful process of retelling their experiences multiple times.
    In addition, the pilot aimed to ensure that children are listened to at every stage of the family justice process when going through their parents’ separation. Children were to be given more opportunity to explain their feelings, what they want and, should a court order be made, to feedback on whether it was working for them.
    How the Pathfinder Pilot works
    The Pathfinder pilot was launched in Bournemouth and Weymouth in Dorset, as well as Caernarfon, Mold, Prestatyn and Wrexham in North Wales initially.
    The piloted model involves more detailed initial investigations being carried out by the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), an independent body advising family courts on what is safe for children in family law processes. In most cases, this has involved speaking to the children involved in cases before the first hearing even takes place.
    Furthermore, the pilot has introduced a better integration system between agencies, such as domestic abuse organisations, and organisations specialising in mediation, and the courts, in order to best serve the families.
    The process involves:

    An early ‘gatekeeping’ hearing to look at the information
    Cafcass investigate any welfare issues and identify whether the family might benefit from another form of dispute resolution and can avoid court
    Cafcass will speak directly with the family and identify any families which have a domestic abuse risk
    Where appropriate, Cafcass will also speak with children early on in this process to understand their feelings and wishes

    The aim is for Cafcass to help families avoid court entirely, or, where this is not possible, to find a solution at the first hearing. The judge then reviews all the information and can request further documentation before the case reaches court.
    The idea has been to encourage a less adversarial process, keeping conflict out of the courtroom, and emphasising the investigation of issues, including allegations of domestic abuse.
    The Future of the Pilot
    The initial phase of the pilot reached its conclusion in February 2024. It has been announced that it will be expanded to two further locations, Birmingham and South-East Wales, before a national roll out.
    Phase 2 is due to launch in May 2024.
    Stowe Family Law Partner Rachel Fisher said this of the news that the pilot has been extended:
    “It is a really exciting development to see the expansion of the Pathfinder Pilot following the end of Phase 1 with the scheme now been expanded to South East Wales and Birmingham before hopefully a national rollout and the feedback reported has been extremely positive.
    This new Cafcass process is welcomed by professionals and families as a streamlined process with less delays for children who are at the centre of these disputes. The aim of the Pathfinder Pilot is to ensure that the voice of the children involved in each case is heard and to ensure that trauma to children and victims of domestic abuse is reduced as far as possible, which can only be in the children’s best interests.
    It is positive that the Pilot is being extended so that more families can benefit from the process which sees the court actively working with other local organisations and agencies to ensure matters are progressed promptly and with all the information being available to the court at an early stage through the in depth information gathering exercise at the outset by Cafcass to support a problem-solving approach to resolving arrangements for children.”
    In addition, the Government recently announced a pilot, due to launch in summer 2024, trialling a scheme publicly funded early legal advice for parents/carers. This advice will allow parents to make better informed decisions regarding their children when it comes to separation.
    The pilot aims to help separating parents resolve disputes without court intervention. The Pathfinder pilot will be important for those cases which do get to court. More

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    A Guide to Prohibited Steps Orders

    The breakup of a family can be a time of heightened emotions and in some cases, it may be necessary for the family court to enforce legal structures to prevent problems in relation to child arrangements.
    One example of this is a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO), which is sometimes used in acrimonious cases where the welfare of the separated couple’s child may be at risk.
    Stowe Family Law Paralegal, Becka Headley explores what they are, how they work, and how best to navigate them.
    What is a Prohibited Steps Order?
    A Prohibited Steps Order is a legally binding order that prohibits someone from exercising some elements of their parental responsibility. Where a Prohibited Steps Order has been put in place, the person against whom the order has been made must have the court’s permission before doing something set out in the order that would usually be done by a parent.
    They are usually used in cases where parents have separated, although the order does not have to be made against a parent, just someone with parental responsibility.
    Who can apply for a PSO?
    The following people have an automatic right to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order in relation to a child:

    Any parent, guardian or special guardian of the child
    Anyone who is named in a Child Arrangements Order which is in force in respect to that child, which states that the child is to live with them
    Anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child.

    Any other party who wishes to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order will firstly need to apply for permission from the court before doing so.
    How can I apply for a PSO?
    You can make an application to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order by completing Form C100 and submitting this to the Family Court local to where the child lives. There is a fee of £232 for submitting this application to the court. Your application will then be issued by the court and listed for a hearing to consider application.
    If you do not have automatic permission to apply for the Prohibited Steps Order, you will firstly need to make an application for permission. This can be done on Form C100 also, with a cost of £232, to the Family Court local to where the child lives. A hearing may be required for the court to determine if permission is granted. If and when the court grant you permission to apply for the order, you can then proceed to apply for the Prohibited Steps Order as above.
    It is possible to apply for an Emergency PSO. These are often made in a ‘without notice’ hearing, where the other party is not aware of the application. There does need to be evidence that an emergency order is needed and that the welfare of the child is at risk.
    What can a Prohibited Steps Order cover?
    Prohibited Steps Orders can cover a wide range of prohibited actions, which prevents someone from carrying out an action which they would usually be allowed to do as a parent. For example:

    Changing or removing the child from school
    Changing the child’s surname
    Changing the child’s GP
    Consenting to the child undergoing a medical treatment
    Relocating a child within the UK or overseas
    Prohibiting the child from seeing a specific person

    The time for which the Prohibited Steps Order lasts can vary from case to case. It will usually remain in force until further notice, although it will automatically end on the child’s 18th birthday.  The court will impose a duration which they feel is in the best interests of the child, which can range from one month to several years.
    Can a Prohibited Steps Order be overturned or lifted?
    A Prohibited Steps Order can be over-turned; however the court will not do so if removing the order may negatively effect the child. The court’s first priority is the wellbeing of the child.
    A Prohibited Steps Order can be lifted if the parties reach an agreement that it should be. In these circumstances, the person who initially made the application for the Prohibited Steps Order can request that the court lift the order. Before lifting the order, the court will consider whether this is in the child’s best interests.
    What happens if a Prohibited Steps Order is breached?
    A Prohibited Steps Order is a legally binding and enforceable court order. Therefore, if a person breaks the order, they will be in contempt of court. This offence is punishable by imprisonment, fines and/or unpaid work.
    If breach of the order is found to be justified as it was in the best interests of the child, the court may reduce the penalty for the breach, or there may be no penalty at all.
    Useful Links
    What the family court expects from parents
    Can my ex stop me moving away with the children?
    My ex and I can’t agree on our child’s school
    Supporting children through divorce: Listen on Spotify
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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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    Stowe Talks How To: Part 2

    Stowe Talks How To
    Our next instalment of our Stowe Talks How To videos are now freely available to watch.
    To recap, these videos are guides for some of the key aspects of the divorce process, so you can be taken through step-by-step accompanied by our expert lawyers.
    We know that divorce can be overwhelming and stressful at times, which is why we have produced these practical videos and accompanying guides for you to download for free.
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    The supporting guides can be found here.
    A full playlist of all the Stowe Talks How To videos can be found here.
    Other Useful Links
    Introducing Stowe Talks How To
    Stowe Support – a huge range of free resources (blogs, guides, podcasts etc) covering all matters family law including divorce, child arrangements, unmarried couples, finances, and much more besides. More

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    January 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.
    Latest blogs from Stowe
    What is in store for family law in 2024?
    The Importance of Pensions in Divorce
    Thinking about divorce this ‘Divorce Day’?
    Navigating the path to divorce and what to do next
    Expansion of Family Court Transparency Pilot to 16 more courts
    Dissolution and Divorce – What’s the Difference?
    Navigate the Complexities of Separation and Divorce with Family Mediation
    Marriage Rates Fall Below 50% in England and Wales
    A Guide to Financial Dispute Resolution
    Platonic Co-Parenting – Can I really have a baby with my friend?
    Watch our recent webinars
    The Break-up Club: Building a new life after divorce
    Stowe talks: Making your money go further after divorce
    Listen to the latest Stowe talks podcasts on Spotify
    Stowe talks 26: The unique challenges of a relationship break down in the LGBTQIA+ community
    Stowe talks 27: Creating financial wellbeing following a divorce or separation
    Stowe talks 28: How to prepare for your financial settlement in divorce
    Watch ‘Stowe talks: How to’ guides
    Stowe talks: How to get divorced online
    Stowe talks: How to pull together information for a financial settlement
    Stowe talks: How to obtain a financial consent order
    Stowe talks: How to represent yourself in court
    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