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    Platonic Co-Parenting – Can I really have a baby with my friend?

    In recent months, the idea of platonic co-parenting has gained traction. A recent article in The Guardian on the topic was written by a woman who, after much back and forth, decided to have a baby with her gay best friend. The friends were both happily single, but wanted a child and were concerned about the social and financial implications of raising a child as a single parent.
    Platonic co-parenting can take a variety of different forms and can be entered into for a whole host of different reasons. It can be between an opposite sex ‘couple’, same sex, or even as three parents where the couple are unable to have children so bring in a friend who not only can be a donor but can be present as another parental figure.
    In essence, platonic co-parenting is when a child is raised by two or more people who are not, and have not in the past been, in a romantic relationship (although there may be a romantically involved same-sex couple as part of a three+ parental group). The child might be conceived by treatments like IVF, intracervical insemination (ICI) or intrauterine insemination (IUI). The prospective parents may choose to go down the surrogacy route or adopt a child.
    What does platonic co-parenting look like?
    Platonic co-parenting looks different for every set of parents. The reasons behind platonic co-parenting are as varied as how it can look in practise, but some reasons might be:

    Two happily single individuals each want to have a baby,
    Financial constraints mean an individual cannot afford to be a single parent,
    A same-sex couple want to have a child with a donor and the donor wants a relationship with the child.

    With any number of reasons for wanting to platonically co-parent, how it can look practically is unique to the situation. However, by definition, platonic co-parenting means that each parent is involved in the upbringing of the child, whether they are biologically connected or not.
    Each set of parents will need to come to an agreement about how conception will work, and what the practicalities will be once the baby is born. For example, for the woman and her gay best friend mentioned above, they came to an agreement that they would try ICI first to get pregnant, and then IVF. They discussed finances and decided on a 50/50 split, potential baby names, the baby’s surname and where the child, and the parents, would live (for the first year the father would move in with the mother and baby).
    In some cases, there are more than two parents. The law only recognises two legal parents; however, platonic co-parenting opens up opportunities for more communal parenting responsibility.
    In some cases, a same-sex couple may ask a close friend to be a donor, or a surrogate mother, and this friend becomes part of the family. In other examples, a gay couple and a lesbian couple might ‘join forces’ to have a four-parent family.
    There are also matchmaking apps now that allow prospective parents to meet each other or meet sperm donors.
    Is it legal/How can I make it legal?
    Platonic co-parenting is entirely legal.
    Complications can arise with the difficulties in law around parental responsibility and each platonic co-parenting relationship will be unique. However, if a parent wants to have legal guardianship of a child, this must be registered.
    For example, if a heterosexual ‘couple’ have a child together, the father can be officially recognised as the child’s legal parent by being named on the birth certificate.
    The law only allows for two legal parents, so where a group of co-parents want to raise a child, only two can be recognised as such. The woman who carries the child will automatically be recognised as the child’s legal parent. However, the law allows for more than two people to have parental responsibility, for example as step-parents, or grandparents.
    For families where there are more than two parents, it is important to consider what other arrangements and agreements you may need to put in place to grant parental responsibility over the child. This can be done through a ‘parental responsibility agreement’.
    More legal information around platonic co-parenting can be found here.
    What are the benefits of platonic co-parenting?
    There are a variety of benefits of platonic co-parenting, and these do depend on your unique situation. However, here are a few:

    It allows happily single individuals to become parents without the pressure of solo parenting,
    Sperm donors can have a more active role in the child’s life,
    Potentially more people with parental responsibility – this can mean more support and love for the child,
    It is another way for the LGBTQIA+ community to become parents without requiring romantic relationships with the opposite sex.

    Are there any downsides?
    As with parenting generally, there can be conflict in co-parenting relationships, which is why it is important to discuss legal, social, environmental, and physical factors before embarking on the journey. These can be made into a Co-Parenting Agreement, more widely known as a Parenting Plan, which, whilst not legally binding, help define the expectations of each parent and what agreements have been made.
    Communication is key in all parenting and the more open and transparent you are with your other co-parents, the better. It is important to get all your thoughts out on the table and discuss what compromises may need to be reached.
    The law can be complicated in areas such as surrogacy, and fertility treatments, so you might need to seek legal advice around these matters, and around seeking parental responsibility.
    If disagreements do arise, mediation can often help resolve difficulties and help co-parents reach amicable solutions.
    Useful Links
    What is platonic co-parenting?
    Surrogacy and parental orders
    Travelling abroad with different surnames
    What is parental responsibility?

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    INTRODUCING Stowe talks: How to

    Ever wished you had step-by-step instructions to help guide you through typical divorce processes?
    We know that divorce and separation can feel like a minefield cluttered with complicated paperwork, legal jargon and complex processes.
    That’s why we’ve produced Stowe talks: How to a new range of free step-by-step videos and guides.
    What you can expect from Stowe talks: How to
    Each edition includes a video and accompanying guide available to download for free. The focus on offering practical, to-the-point information and guidance from a family lawyer on a specific topic related to divorce or separation, including:
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    Explore more Stowe talks: How to resources
    Watch Stowe talks: How to videos
    Download the accompanying guides More

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    What is in store for family law in 2024?

    2024 has the potential to see the conclusion of a number of UK government legislation amendments and consultations. Each carefully considered change will have a far-reaching impact on family law and those dealing with the personal impact of family law matters. So, as we begin the new year, we look at important changes on the horizon and suggest what may be in store for family law in 2024.
    Financial Remedies Court reporting pilot
    The spotlight on ‘transparency in the Family Court’ continues in 2024. Following on from last year’s introduction of measures to increase understanding and scrutiny of the system, a new pilot scheme is set to start on January 29th.
    The Financial Remedies Court (FRC) reporting pilot will allow accredited journalists and bloggers to report on financial remedies proceedings. These include financial issues arising from divorce and civil partnership dissolution, and child support cases.
    The FRC pilot will initially cover three trial courts: the Central Family Court, Birmingham, and Leeds. Notably, certain hearings, like Financial Dispute Resolution, will maintain confidentiality, preserving the privacy of those involved.
    Proposed amendment to Victims and Prisoners Bill affecting parental responsibility
    In January 2024 the Ministry of Justice’s proposed amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill moves to the next stage. The proposal announced in 2022 seeks to automatically remove parental responsibility for parents convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of their co-parent.
    The legislation change emerged after the death of Jade Ward, whose partner and father of her child murdered her in 2021. He was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail. Since then, Jade’s family have lobbied for a change in the law to automatically remove parental responsibility so that convicted offenders can no longer seek information about their children or make key decisions about their lives.
    The Ministry of Justice have confirmed that there will be exemptions in cases involving domestic abuse.
    Possible outline of future financial remedies reform
    In 2023 the Law Commission of England and Wales launched a comprehensive review of financial remedy orders. The review examines how finances are divided among couples post-divorce or civil partnership dissolution, currently governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and Civil Partnership Act 2004.
    The aim of the review is to evaluate the effectiveness of current laws and ensure fairness for divorcing couples. Among other factors, the review set out to analyse discretionary powers of judges, explore wider powers for orders involving children over the age of eighteen, assess pension-related orders, review the mechanics and structure of post-divorce financial payments.
    The findings, anticipated in a scoping report in September 2024, may pave the way for significant reforms in future financial remedies legislation.
    Family court fees to rise
    Last month the UK Government completed a consultation which looks to increase court fees by up to 10% in 2024.
    The Ministry for Justice wants to increase revenue generated by the courts to ensure that they remain ‘sufficiently resourced’ to protect access to the courts for all those who seek justice.
    Users of His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), including the family court, contribute to the cost of the justice process by paying fees. Court fees generated £727 million of the total £2.3 billion cost to run HMCTS in 2022/23, with the remainder funded by the taxpayer.
    By increasing court fees by 10% the UK government is expected to generate up to £42 million per year. The key objectives of the price increase are to keep pace with increased costs, improve service delivery, subsidise the cost of free services, and reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer.
    Key 2024 family court fee increases include:

    Application for a divorce, or civil partnership dissolution – fees will rise from £593 to £652
    Application for a parental order – fees will rise from £232 to £255
    Application/permission to apply for adoption – fees will rise from £183 to £201
    Application for a financial order (other than consent order) – fees will rise from £275 to £303.

    Resolving family matters out of court
    In 2024 we’ll see a continuing emphasis on encouraging parties to seek resolution of their disputes outside of the court system. Last year the UK government carried out a consultation ‘Supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements’ to review mediation in family law.
    As a result, in 2024 we could see mandatory mediation for all suitable low-level family court cases (excluding those which include allegations or a history of domestic violence). The aim is to divert family disputes away from stretched courts and protect children from the impact of acrimonious and long-running court cases.
    It’s hoped the proposals will mean more people can make decisions and achieve resolutions with the support of a qualified mediator, rather than placing the decision with the family court.
    General election
    While the date of the next UK general election is still to be announced, it’s widely anticipated that the current Conservative government will call for an election in 2024.
    The latest voting intention polls suggest that Labour may win the next election, meaning a change in government. Whilst no parties have yet released their election manifestos, and the exact nature of any proposed changes to family law is yet unknown, we can expect to see some impact. More

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    2023 In Review – Reflections on the Year in Family Law

    2023: A Year in Review
    Julian Hawkhead, Managing Partner, Reflects on the Year
    It has become something of a tradition for me to write a note as we draw towards the end of the year to reflect on what has happened over the past 12 months. Doesn’t the time fly by? This year I’m delighted to be joined by a few colleagues around the firm who have put down some thoughts on what has stood out for them over the course of 2023.
    At Stowe, it has been quite a year again! I’m trying to find some clever way of linking “Stowe” and “grow” together but have failed but yet again we have continued to cement our place as the most dominant family law practice in the country. We saw our colleague numbers increase to over 360 with a total of 178 lawyers serving 88 locations around the country. Yes, that’s right, we have 88 office locations, adding 22 new locations including those from Watson Thomas and Crisp & Co. this year. It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know our new colleagues from those two firms, to learn about their ways of working and what they have done to make themselves successful to continue improve our own Stowe Way of Working.
    Our client numbers also increased by 25% and by early December we had over 4,000 progressing matters underway as we continue to strive to support more and more people.
    Joanna Newton on The Rise of the Legal Age of Marriage
    In February this year, the legal age of marriage rose to 18. This has meant that 16- and 17-year-olds who were previously allowed to marry with parental consent are no longer allowed to marry or enter a civil partnership in England and Wales.
    As of 27th February, it is now a criminal offence to arrange a marriage for under 18-year-olds under any circumstances. The offence is now punishable by 7 years in prison.
    The idea behind this new law is to better protect children from being forced into underage marriages and protect them from abuse and coercion. The change is to crack down on forced marriages which can cause lasting psychological, and sometimes physical, damage on a child. It is also part of the government’s continuing commitment to tackling violence against women and girls.
    Prior to the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Minimum Age) Act 2023, the law had been unchanged since 1949 and had legitimised child marriage with children aged 16 and 17 permitted to marry with their parents’ consent.
    The mechanism of parental consent which existed under that law, whilst meant to be a safeguard, has, in some cases, proved to be a vehicle for parental abuse.
    This change is a welcome relief and over the coming years we will hopefully see it having a considerable impact reducing the number of forced marriages and violence against girls in particular.
    Gemma Davison on Changes to Fertility Legislation
    Earlier this year, the government announced that there would be a change to fertility law which aims to reduce the discrimination that female same-sex couples face when they are looking to conceive via reciprocal IVF (where one woman provides her egg and the other carries the child). It will also encompass a change for same-sex couples where one or both partners have HIV but the viral load is undetectable.
    Female same-sex couples will no longer be required to have an additional screening for infectious diseases (including rubella, hepatitis B and C) which will remove this extra barrier not faced by heterosexual couples and reduce costs by up to £1000.
    For same-sex couples with undetectable HIV viral loads, the change in legislation will mean that the couple will have access to IVF treatment, including known sperm or egg cell donation to friends or relatives.
    These changes will hopefully work to reduce the inequality that exists between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples regarding fertility options and treatment. However, there is still a way to go.
    In August 2022 as part of the Women’s Health Strategy, the government committed to removing all financial barriers for same-sex couples that are not faced by heterosexual couples. We are still awaiting this change. I hope to see more progress in reducing discrimination in the fertility space and more support of this method of parenthood in 2024.
    Megan Brookfield on ‘Love bombing’ being Recognised as a Sign of Abuse by CPS
    In April this year, the Crown Prosecution Service updated their guidance on controlling and coercive behaviour to include the term ‘love bombing’. The guidance now advises prosecutors on the range of tactics perpetrators of abuse can use against their victim and discusses love bombing and what this entails. Love bombing is a phrase used to describe a scenario whereby the abuser will periodically carry out over-the-top loving acts in between other behaviour to confuse and control their victim. It is most commonly seen in the early stages of a relationship.
    The update is a positive step. It has highlighted the diverse ways in which perpetrators can exact control of their victim. Furthermore, it provides a degree of clarity on the role of love bombing and how it is a coercive tactic. It also gives family lawyers a legal framework with which to support clients and indeed when obtaining protective orders from the family court.
    There are still numerous challenges to face when proving coercive control. The updates in legal framework have certainly improved this, but it is clear that more work needs to be done to help and support survivors and their families, particularly for those seeking to leave their abusive relationship.
    Ashley Le Core on Child Arrangements in International Divorces
    Most of us will have seen something about the divorce of Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner earlier this year. Their divorce raised some very interesting points in the family law space, including which jurisdiction should accept the divorce proceedings and associated financial remedy proceedings. This is particularly important to consider, as different jurisdictions will provide two differing ways of handling assets, which could favour one party over the other.
    However, most of the media drama of the divorce has been specifically about child arrangements, raising the issue of who gets the kids in international divorces, as Turner is British and Jonas is American. From media reports, it appeared that they had planned to settle their two young daughters in England. Initial divorce proceedings, however, saw some issues on this front, including accusations of child abduction.
    Unlike many divorces, these parents are of course very wealthy and therefore the reality is that wherever the determination is made that the children shall primarily reside, the other parent should be more than able to purchase an appropriate property in that country and therefore, the impact on the children will be drastically reduced. This is of course not available to every party in such cases.
    No absolute certain details are known about the long-term arrangements in relation to this divorce at this stage, but in the interim, the girls will travel between the UK and the US. In international divorces generally, it is unlikely the court would expect children to be travelling between countries on a regular basis, especially if they are of school age. In these cases, the primary focus has to be their schooling.  The onus would therefore be on one of the parents to do more of the travelling and to have a base in the relevant jurisdiction. The children then spend more quality time with their parents over longer periods such as school holidays.
    The Jonas/Turner divorce has been an interesting study in the various complex aspects involved in international and multi-jurisdictional divorces and has particularly drawn attention to what happens to children in such circumstances.
    A Final Sign Off
    There is little I can add to what has been said so eloquently above and a huge thanks to them for taking the time to share their thoughts. Family law is always evolving whether that is to reflect the changing values of our society, to adapt to the political or economic climate or to anticipate what factors such as new (and what can seem scary) technology. As a leadership team we are constantly surveying the horizon to see what might be coming up, whether that is a possible change of government or some new AI innovation. Whatever happens I do believe that 2024 will be great and exciting year.
    Wishing you and your families a safe, restful and joyous festive season.
    Julian, and all at Stowe Family Law. More

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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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    Changes to IVF Legislation

    Changes to Fertility Laws
    The government recently announced an upcoming change to fertility legislation which will lessen the discrimination that same-sex female couples experience in trying to conceive via reciprocal IVF.
    At the moment, female same-sex couples who are looking to have a child via the route of reciprocal IVF – meaning one woman provides her egg and the other carries the child – are required to undergo a screening for infectious diseases, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and rubella. This can cost up to £1000.
    However, heterosexual couples going through the same process do not need to have this screening.
    The government have now announced that this will be changed, removing the additional barrier and significant extra cost only applied to female same-sex couples.
    Furthermore, changes will be brought in for same-sex couples where one or both partners have HIV, but the viral load is undetectable. In these situations, the couple will now be able to access IVF treatment, including known sperm or egg cell donation to friends or relatives.
    Stowe Partner Gemma Davison investigates these changes in more detail.
    The options for IVF treatment have been expanded with advancements in science and technology, allowing more couples to start a family through this method. However, there are still obstacles for many in accessing this treatment, particularly for same-sex couples who have additional hurdles and cost specific to themselves to overcome. This has meant ongoing inequality between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples who want to become parents.
    The government’s announcement that the cost associated with extra tests that female same-sex couples must undergo if they wish to pursue reciprocal IVF is very welcome, and long overdue.
    The changes to laws around HIV load in same-sex couples is also welcome, and will mean that, for those individuals and couples where the viral load is undetectable, access to IVF treatment will be opened.
    These changes, when they are enacted, will work to reduce the inequality that exists between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples when it comes to accessing fertility treatment. However, they will not completely remove the barriers that exist, particularly around costs, although the government has committed to removing all the financial barriers associated with IVF/fertility treatment.
    For example, at the moment, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggest that women under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF funded by the NHS if:

    They have been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for two years
    Or they have not got pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination

    However, if tests show that there is no chance of naturally conceiving a baby and that IVF is the only treatment likely to result in conception, the woman should be referred immediately for IVF.
    Currently, this is guidance only and not universally adopted by integrated care boards for their local area. Essentially, then, it is a postcode lottery for treatment and again, in many cases, female same-sex couples suffer inequality and huge costs if they want to conceive through IVF.
    In the Women’s Health Strategy (August 2022), the government committed to removing all financial barriers, including the requirement for female same-sex couples to pay for 6 artificial insemination cycles privately before they are eligible for NHS funded IVF. Heterosexual couples are do not have to self-fund any treatments before being eligible for NHS IVF treatment.
    Unfortunately, we are still awaiting this change. And, until the change in fertility legislation that has been announced by the government becomes law, there are still financial and practical barriers that mean same-sex couples face inequality in their journey to parenthood.
    Hopefully, we will see more change and action soon.
    Useful Links
    Fertility Network UK
    Our Child Law Solicitors
    Surrogacy in the UK: Watch on Youtube
    Surrogacy in 2 minutes: Watch on Youtube
    Embryo Storage after Divorce 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