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    Routes to single parenthood explained

    Single parenthood
    For so many people, becoming a parent is not easy, whether it’s because they’re in a same-sex relationship, have had alternative priorities until now, or have experienced fertility challenges. But what if you are single, and either haven’t found a partner yet, or you have made the decision to become a solo parent? Happily there are alternative routes to parenting. In fact, it is becoming increasingly common for people who haven’t had children yet, and are single in their 30s and 40’s, to seek alternative routes to parenthood.
    So, what are your options if you want to become a parent while single? Liza Gatrell, Senior Solicitor at Stowe Family Law explains more.
    Adoption
    One route to parenthood for single parents is adoption. You can apply for adoption as a single man or woman. The eligibility criteria for adoption in the UK is quite broad. You can apply to adopt in the UK if:

    You are over 21 (there is no upper age limit)
    You have not have been convicted of any “specified offences”, which are offences against children and sexual offences
    You must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK and have lived in the UK for at least 1 year before you begin the application process.

    Your suitability also needs to be approved by an adoption agency. This means that a range of factors will be considered when establishing your eligibility for adoption, such as your age and health – agencies will expect you to have the health and vitality to see children through to independence, support network, religion, financial circumstances and ethnic background.
    Surrogacy
    Since the 3rd January 2019 a change in the law has meant that parental orders can be applied for by single parents. A parental order gives legal parenthood to the intended parents of a surrogate child and extinguishes the parental status of the surrogate. For a single intended parent to be able to apply for a parental order it is a requirement that they are the child’s biological parent, which inevitably will exclude some people.
    For single intended dads, if your surrogate is married then under current law her spouse or civil partner will automatically be recognised as the child’s second legal parent and you cannot be named on the initial birth certificate. If your surrogate is not married, then you can be the second legal parent and immediately be named on the birth certificate. Either way you will still need to make a parental order application to extinguish the surrogate’s parental status.
    For single intended mums, the surrogate will always be the child’s legal parent at birth, even if you are the biological mother and named on a foreign birth certificate. The biological father will also be the legal father if no Human Fetilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) clinic forms are signed.  If a HFEA clinic is used, and the surrogate is not married/ does not have a civil partner, then the intended mother can be nominated as the other parent by using specific forms.
    Donor Conception
    Whilst this isn’t an option for everyone, many single women turn to sperm donors each year to make parenthood a reality.
    In the UK sperm (and egg) donation services are provided by HFEA regulated fertility clinics, but there are also donor-matching websites, and some people do make their own arrangements.
    If you use a HFEA clinic then donors will be screened, donors can only be paid for their expenses, each donor can donate to no more than 10 families, donors and parents must be offered counselling and the donor can withdraw their consent up to the point they are transferred into someone else’s body.
    An important difference between using a HFEA clinic and a private arrangement, is the legal status of the donor. If a HFEA clinic is used, then the donor has no legal rights towards the child. Information is kept on record and anyone over the age of 16 can ask the HFEA whether they were conceived with donor eggs or sperm at a clinic in the UK after 1991 and request any non-identifying information held. Some donor-conceived people can also ask for identifying information about their donor once they are 18. This will apply to all conceptions from the 1st April 2006.
    If you choose to use a known donor then it is advisable to have a pre-conception agreement drawn up. This allows you to have very open and honest discussions and set expectations before conception takes place. Most disputes are born from mismatched expectations. Whilst such an agreement is not legally enforceable, they set out clearly what the intentions were and can carry weight in court.
    If you use a known sperm donor, and don’t go through a HFEA clinic, then the law will dictate who the legal parents will be. The birth mother is always the legal mother and must be registered on the birth certificate, the other legal parent is either their spouse/ civil partner or possibly the biological father. As a single mother using known donor sperm, you will need to decide whether to register the second legal parent on the birth certificate, which means that they would then share parental responsibility automatically.
    Co-parenting partnerships
    If the idea of being a single parent is not for you, then a co-parenting partnership could be the answer. Instead of becoming single parents by choice, this growing trend means that singles meet online with the sole objective of raising a child together platonically.
    There are a variety of websites, such as Modamily and Co-Parent Match, which assist those who are ready to become a parent but either don’t want to use sperm banks or are looking for someone to co-parent with.
    You may know a choose to enter into such an arrangement with a friend. If you are considering going down this route then I recommend that you do your homework, especially if your co-parent is someone you have not known for a long time. As many separated parents will tell you, co-parenting across two households takes a lot of communication and shared values so ensure that you are both on the same page.
    Get in touch
    For more information on alternative routes to parenting, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry More

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    Making arrangements for children during Christmas

    Child arrangements during Christmas
    After the past two years, time with loved ones has never felt so important, but for separated parents Christmas can be a time of tension, as plans need to be agreed about where and how children will spend the festive season. So how do you agree on arrangements for children during Christmas?
    We asked our Regional Director for Yorkshire, Rachel Roberts, to share her advice on child arrangements during Christmas.
    Child arrangements and Christmas
    As we approach Christmas, we see a flurry of clients getting in touch for help to try and resolve arrangements for the festive season. 
    Before I turn to my tips on how best to manage arrangements, there are a couple of key points from the Government and family law sector that are certainly at the forefront of my mind when advising clients.
    Last year, a leading family judge made it clear that parties should only be bringing disputes over children to court where absolutely necessary. The judge went on to criticise parents for asking the court to micro-manage children arrangements. The view from the court is clear – where possible you should be sorting these things out yourself.
    The Government have said that further lockdowns are unlikely and have been clear that restrictions do not prevent children from moving between separated parents, provided they are not self-isolating. 
    It seems unlikely that this will change, and CAFCASS (the government body that advises the court on children disputes) has stressed the need for children to maintain their usual routine.
    All that said, it is naive to think that difficulties will not arise, and the following guidance may help avoid unhappiness at Christmas.
    Tips for making child arrangements during Christmas 
    Preparation is key
    With the added uncertainty of another Christmas during the pandemic, trying to put in place arrangements for Christmas in advance is tricky.
    If you do not have plans in place, now is the time to start. Talk to your ex-partner and agree on arrangements that work for you all.
    Some clients I have worked with agreed that the children would spend Christmas Eve at one home and then return to the other for lunch on Christmas Day.
    Other clients decided that they would spend the whole festive period with one parent and the next year spend it with the other, alternating between the two.
    It is a personal choice based on what works for your family, but also the age of the children, location and how amicable you are.
    Be prepared to be flexible as plans may need to change. 
    Focus on the children 
    First and foremost, put the children at the heart of the plans you make. A different type of Christmas can still be a good Christmas. Talk about the positive: two Christmas Days, two sets of presents etc.
    Make sure you share your plans with the children. Depending on the age of the children, ask them what they would like? Older children need to feel they have a voice. 
    Once in place, sharing plans with the children means they know where they will be throughout the holiday, and the routine will make them feel safe and secure.
    Creating a visual plan can help as dates can be difficult for a child to understand. One client created a Christmas themed wall planner for their younger children. A tech-savvy teenager may prefer a joint Google calendar.
    Be fair to the other parent
    If this is your first year as a separated parent, this will all feel very raw and difficult. It is likely that you will both be dreading not spending Christmas entirely with your children. 
    Even though it can be difficult, try to think about the impact of any plans on your former partner. Ask yourself if you would be happy with the proposed arrangements next year? If the answer is no, then maybe they should be reconsidered. 
    Stick to the plan
    This year may require a certain level of flexibility, but where possible, it is important that, whatever arrangements you come to, you both stick to the plan. 
    Last-minute changes can cause feelings of disruption and uncertainty for children. And, whilst flexibility is an essential part of positive child arrangements, it is important to maintain consistency and provide stability.
    Get advice early, if needed
    Christmas is chaotic and organising a co-parenting schedule on top of everything else is never going to be easy, especially if communication between you and your ex-partner is difficult. 
    If you are struggling this year, take advice from a family lawyer who can try to assist in negotiating an agreement. 
    If you cannot reach an agreement, mediation can help as the presence of a 3rd party often eases tensions and result in finding common ground. 
    Mediation is still taking place via video conferencing, and many of our clients have reported that it is easier than being in the same room as their former partner.
    Court proceedings are possible but should be used as a last resort, and, due to the current strain on courts from the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that you have any prospect of a contested hearing before Christmas. 
    Hopefully, these tips, combined with some careful planning, compromise and putting the children first,  will help you and your ex-partner move forward towards a harmonious Christmas.
    Get in touch 
    If you would like any advice on child arrangements during Christmas, or other family law issues, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 
    This article was first published in 2018 and has since been updated.  More

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    5 Tips for Parallel Parenting

    Parallel parenting is a method used by divorced or separated parents who wish to continue to parent their children in parallel, whilst agreeing to limit contact and interaction with each other. This technique is particularly helpful in divorces that involve domestic abuse, high-conflict, or where communication is extremely difficult.
    Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
    5 Tips for Parallel Parenting

    Rebuilding your life when a relationship ends and healing from any emotional trauma you’ve experienced is difficult enough. Even when you’re ex was abusive, sometimes it’s impossible to cut ties for the sake of your child.  
    What is parallel parenting?
    Whilst co-parenting works by cooperation and continued communication, for some it gives your ex-partner the opportunity to continue to mistreat you. Instead, parallel parenting increases safety in challenging relationships by deliberately keeping communication to a bare minimum. 
    While major decisions can be agreed upon together, each parent adapts their parenting method when the child is in their care. It allows you to distance yourself from your ex without depriving your child of a parent and sets clear boundaries that prevent further abuse or conflict.
    The aim is to facilitate emotional healing from the relationship while prioritising your child’s needs and protecting them from conflict.  
    To give you the best start after divorce, here’s 5 tips for parallel parenting. 
    1. Create a parenting plan  
    It’s best to plan ahead to avoid disagreements. The more prepared you are and the more detailed the plan is, the less you’re likely to argue with your ex and the more minimal the contact is. Minimise stress for your child and ensure your safety by agreeing as much as you can in advance, including: 

    Agreeing timing of visits, including dates and start and end times, in writing.
    Establish how to handle cancellations, and when and how they should be communicated.
    Consider how often the child will see each parent?
    Who will attend your child’s functions or doctor visits?
    Agree who will drop them off and pick them up?
    Plan ahead to decide where your child will spend their holidays and birthdays?
    Choose a neutral location or even ask a family member or a trusted friend to pick your child for you.
    Set out financial responsibilities, and dos and don’ts.
    You can figure out logistics using email or another form of communication that doesn’t involve meeting face to face.  

     2. Let yourself heal
    Ideally, after separating from an abusive ex-partner, you’d cut contact and never see them again.  But when there are children involved, this is not always possible to eliminate them from your life completely. When some form of contact must remain, prioritise fulfilling your needs as well as supporting your child. Incorporate self-care into your routine to reduce stress and reconnect with your self. The best way to deal with the situation is by moving forward, so when you’re ready to, concentrate on your long-term goals. Focus on building resilience and reintroducing happiness to your life.  
     3. Accept the current situation
    Parallel parenting, and maintaining some contact with an abusive or difficult ex-partner after you’ve chosen to divorce, can be very challenging. It’s natural to struggle with negative emotions such as guilt, regret, shame and anger, and feeling as though things aren’t fair. You may find it hard to accept that your ex is still a parent to your child. Try to practice acceptance. Things are the way they are and all you can do is make the best out of the situation. Focus your energy on parenting your child and providing them with all the love and support they need. 
    4. Keep communication to the minimum
    Only communicate with your ex when it’s necessary. Agree to contact them via email or use a parenting app, and document every interaction. Keep your communication impersonal and matter of fact, discussing only topics that relate to your child and sharing no personal information or detail. Try not to let your ex provoke you or use your child as a messenger. It can be difficult not to ruminate on the relationship whenever an email pops up or whenever your child is spending time with them. Try to distance yourself and treat interaction with your ex as a business that’s necessary to keep your child happy.  
     5. Appoint a mediator
    If there’s a lot of resentment between you and your ex, or your safety might be compromised, it’s a good idea to appoint a professional mediator. Mediation helps divorced parents to align their intentions and focus on their shared priority, the child. With the help of mediation, divorced parents can make well-informed decisions, reduce conflict, and set out an effective and mutually beneficial plan for all members of the family.
    Parallel parenting can be challenging and confusing, and the details of an arrangement will depend on the individual situation. Consider getting advice from a professional.
    If you need help and support with parallel parenting you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
    Family Law Advice
    If you are in an abusive or high-conflict relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers. More

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    Step-parent adoption: Insight from a family lawyer

    This National Adoption Week, we share insights into step-parent adoption during the pandemic from Stowe family lawyer, and adoption specialist, Shanika Varga-Haynes:
    Step-parent adoption
    It is difficult to find any official statistics on the number of step-parents adoptions taking place in the UK with the figures focusing on the number of children being adopted out of the care system. 
    However, as a family solicitor and adoption specialist, I have noticed an increase in this area, through both enquiries, and my caseload. 
    Adoption is a varied and broad area of family law, and all cases bring great reward and challenges. However, Covid-19 and the multiple lockdowns have brought an extra layer of complexity to these already complicated cases. 
    What is step-parent adoption?
    Step-parent adoptions arise when the partner of one of the biological parents wants to adopt the child. The consequence of step-parent adoption is the other biological parent loses their parental responsibility. 
    These applications are usually made where there is an absent biological parent who has little to no involvement in the child’s life for some time. The other biological parent is in a new relationship, and their partner has taken on the parenting role. 
    There can be a reluctance to issue the application as it may result in the other biological parent seeking contact, which they otherwise would not have done. 
    Where the non-resident parent has relatively regular contact with a child, the court tends to be slow to make the adoption order given the serious consequence of the loss of parental responsibility. 
    There are exceptions to this, for example, if the non-resident parent supports the adoption; however, even then, the court will give the decision as to whether to grant the adoption order the weight it deserves.
    Who is involved in step-parent adoption?
    An application for a step-parent adoption involves numerous parties: the step-parent wishing to adopt is the applicant, their partner is the first respondent, the child’s other biological parent is the second respondent, and a guardian can be appointed to represent the child. 
    Other professionals involved in the case will be the judge, legal representation, the local authority who will produce the initial report and often a reporting officer.
    Race for time
    In the early stages of the pandemic, getting applications for step-parent adoptions issued became difficult as the family court was (and still is) prioritising work, and they were not at the top of the list. 
    This delay directly impacted one of my cases where due to a number of reasons, the application for adoption was processed the day before the child’s 18th birthday.
    Adoption applications can only be made if the child has not reached 18. Provided the application is made before the child’s 18th birthday, then it can proceed. If the child turns 19 during the proceedings, an adoption order cannot be made. 
    This meant that we had to make sure the application was dealt with before the child turned 19. Usually, that wouldn’t be too much of a concern as there are time frames the court follows to ensure cases involving children are dealt with as quickly as practicably possible. 
    However, the family courts were stretched before Covid-19, and the delays have noticeably worsened over the past year.
    The impact of delays
    In this case, several factors caused delays. At the beginning of the adoption case, the local authority provides a detailed report to the court about the parties and the child. 
    This report takes several months to complete as it can include interviews with friends and family, details about previous relationships, health, finances and the views of all involved in the case, including the child. The report ends with a recommendation being made to the court.
    Further delays can be caused by the collation of medical evidence. In cases where the applicant is the partner of a parent of the child, in accordance with FPR rule 14.12(c), it is not necessary for medical reports to be obtained. However, if the adopter is another family member such as an aunt, waiting for the medical evidence could add further delays. 
    At the same time, as the report is produced, safeguarding checks are carried out. Unfortunately, in this case, the local authority failed to do these checks. We were notified of this just before the first hearing, meaning a delay of several months whilst they were carried out.
    Due to their complex nature, adoption cases are dealt with by higher-level judges. There is also a preference to have judicial continuity, quite rightly, but this can cause delays due to judicial availability. 
    The first hearing on this matter was adjourned four times, once due to the local authority and three times due to the judge’s availability.
     Again, with a typical case, this wouldn’t be too concerning, but we only had a 12-month window to ensure the order was made. The application was issued in early summer, but by January the following year, we still hadn’t had the first hearing which gave little time for the next steps.
    Usually, the Annex A report prepared by the local authority is filed at court but not released to the parties immediately, although a request can be made for it to be released before the first hearing to speed the process up where time is sensitive. 
    In this particular case, we obtained permission from the Judge to have the report released in advance of the first hearing, so the contents could be considered and the matter progressed without the need for a further hearing. If this request hadn’t been granted we would have been at risk of matters not being finalised before the child turned 19.
    Opposite ends of the world
    This case also involved international elements as although both the biological father and mother consented to the adoption order being made, they lived abroad in separate countries with the applicant step-parent and the child living in England. 
    This was a complicated setup, and one of our challenges was to show the court and the local authority that the applicant and first respondent met the condition of being a married couple. They were a family unit but lived separately for various reasons, visiting each other every 6 weeks where possible. Although COVID-19 had meant this wasn’t possible over the past 12 months. 
    They met the criteria of the child having lived with the applicant for six continuous months prior to the application, but more detail than usual had to be provided regarding the intricacies of the relationship between the applicant step-parent and first respondent. 
    Adoption guardian
    The Judge also decided they wanted a guardian to report on the international element as there were three parties living in three different countries. This was required despite everyone consenting to the application and the Local Authority supporting it.
    The guardian’s role was to report on the living arrangements and assist the court with taking the necessary consents from the parties.
    The guardian confirmed they were satisfied the order should be made. The parties had confirmed their agreement on numerous occasions however it’s imperative that consents are executed and recorded properly. 
    Obtaining proper consent in a global pandemic
    During the pandemic giving consent via video call has been permitted.  However, due to the fact the first and second respondent lived outside of the jurisdiction this was not possible as FPR rule 14.10 (6) states:
    (6) Any form of consent executed outside the United Kingdom must be witnessed by –
    (a) any person for the time being authorised by law in the place where the document is executed to administer an oath for any judicial or other legal purpose;
    (b) a British Consular officer;
    (c) a notary public; or
    (d) if the person executing the document is serving in any of the regular armed forces of the Crown, an officer holding a commission in any of those forces.
    At this point, every country had different rules regarding COVID-19.  Therefore, there were concerns as to whether the first and second respondent would be able to ensure their consent was executed properly as we were unsure as to whether they would have access to someone who met the criteria above. 
    Thankfully the consents were executed and sent to the court and the adoption order was made two months before the child’s 19th birthday.  
    Managing adoption hearings during Covid-19
    Another issue I have experienced over the past year, and expect to in the futur, is the practicalities of a court hearing.  
    There are numerous parties and professionals involved in an adoption case and family courtrooms are not particularly large, especially when accommodating social distancing.
    Last October, one of my adoption hearings required nine people to attend. The hearing proceeded as a hybrid hearing with the local authority joining via video link and due to the fact we were in a Nightingale Court (large hotel conference room) there was thankfully enough space for the hearing to proceed safely. 
    I suspect if we hadn’t had the use of the Nightingale Court we would have had to limit who attended the hearing which could have resulted in complaints about fairness.
     Adoption in the future
    Whilst the pandemic has certainly brought challenges to the adoption process, I am hopeful that we will eventually return to normal, although I expect it won’t be as quick as we all hope. 
    It’s hard to see how the adoption process could be made easier, adoption has huge legal implications and therefore there must be a stringent process. I would like to see cases dealt with more quickly but balancing speed and the need to ensure the right decision is being made for a child is difficult.  
    Adoption cases are extremely rewarding and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to help build a family and transform a child’s life and future
    Get in touch
    If you would like any advice on step-parent adoption, adoption, or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers.
    Useful Links
    Adoption UK
    Adoption Matters
    Stowe’s Adoption Services More

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    Inspirational Quotes About Family Strength and Love

    I love reading inspirational quotes about family strength to remind me that we are blessed to have each other in good times and in bad times. Sometimes words just hit you in a way that really connects with you. I have been searching out and saving up inspirational quotes about many topics and saving them to my Impactful Words Pinterest Board for several years. Today, I thought I would share some of my favorite inspirational family quotes with you.

    These family bonding quotes will help you remember and be able to verbalize the importance of family time. Above all, these family quotes will also serve to remind you that family should be your support network, your refuge in the storm, and your source of happiness. I hope they offer you motivation and inspiration to make your family a priority and to devote the time and effort they deserve.

    Below, I have gathered up 7 great inspirational family quotes into one free printable image that you can print or save to Pinterest for safe keeping. I truly believe that nothing is as important as family. Consequently, we need to make sure that we are there for each other, to always be supportive, and lend an ear or advice when needed. These quotes may offer you comfort when you are down. Good, strong families are the compass by which we navigate life. Families are like a super close tribe or clan that provide meaning and hopefully a firm foundation for us to interact with the world. In conclusion, I hope you enjoy these family time quotes as much as I do.

    The Best Family Quotes And Free Printables

    “At the end of the day, a loving family should find everything forgivable.” -Mark V. Olson

    “The happiest moments of my life have been the few that I have passed at home, in the bosom of my family.” -Thomas Jefferson

    “When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.” -Joyce Brothers

    “I think togetherness is very important to family life.” – Barbara Bush

    “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” -Alex Haley

    “Having a place to go is a home. Having someone to love is a family. Having both is a blessing.” -Donna Hedges

    “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” -Richard Bach

    As a parent, I have always known that I want the best for my family and I strive to be the best parent I can be. These seven best inspirational family quotes are on the two images above which you are free to print and post. Subsequently, I hope they serve as a beautiful reminder of how blessed we are to have each other and together we can reach great heights.

    Inspirational Quotes About Family Strength

    I love these inspirational family quotes about strength. Family bonds are some of the strongest bonds there are and this is because we increase their strength as we face challenges together over time and respond with love and forgiveness for each other.

    “Families are like branches branches on a tree. We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.” –Pinterest

    “Our family is a circle of strength and love, with every birth and every union, the circle will grow, every joy shared adds more love, every crisis faced together, makes the circle stronger.” -Unknown

    “When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family. ” -Jim Butcher

    “The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other. ”  -Mario Puzo

    “In the family, there is strength that all the power in the world cannot undo.” -Unknown

    “When trouble comes, it’s your family that supports you.” -GuyLafleur

    “Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”    -Brad Henry

    ‘There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.” –Winston Churchill

    “The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.” -Lee Iacocca

    “My life is proof that no matter what situation you’re in, as long as you have a supportive family, you can achieve anything.” -Michaela DePrince (She was born in war-torn Sierra Leone and became an American ballet dancer.)

    Which of those family strengths quotes did you find most moving?

    Quotes About Family Love

    Here are a few more of my favorite inspirational quotes about family.

    “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

    “Being a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.” -Lisa Weed

    “Don’t write your name on sand, waves will wash it away. Don’t write your name in sky, wind may blow it away. Write your name in hearts of people you come in touch with. That’s where it will stay.” –Pinterest

    “Nobody knows you or understands you like family.” -Scarlet Paolicchi

    “I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.” – Maya Angelou

    “Having somewhere to go is home. Having someone to love is family. And having both is a blessing.” -Unknown

    “Family is a lifejacket in the stormy sea of life.” -J.K. Rowling

    “The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family.” -Mother Teresa

    “Family is a unique gift that needs to be appreciated and treasured, even when they’re driving you crazy. As much as they make you mad, interrupt you, annoy you, curse at you, try to control you, these are the people who know you the best and who love you.” -Jenna Morasca

    “You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” -Frederick Buechner

    “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” -George Bernard Shaw

    “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” -Michael J. Fox

    “The family is the first essential cell of human society.”  -Pope John XXIII

    “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

    That last quote is so beautiful. For the love of family, may we always aspire to be gifts to each other!

    Thoughts On These Quotes For Families

    These quotes were selected to inspire you even in difficult times. To recenter you around what is truly important. Further, to help you remember that people are what make this life special. Our job is to treasure our family members for who they are and to help them be their best selves. Our reward is our lifelong relationship.

    Serena Williams said, “Family’s first, and that’s what matters most. We realize that our love goes deeper than the tennis game.” That goes to show, she prioritizes her family over her competitive spirit, over her passion for the game. It makes clear how strong family love should be.

    I would remind you that wonderful as they can be, families are not perfect. Do not expect them to be. We are are all human. We all make mistakes. However, with compassion and love, together we can rise above it all, stronger than before. And that, is a beautiful thing! After all, family is forever.

    As Jane Howard said, ““Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” We all need a group of people to count on, to trust, to love, and be loved by.

    Marge Kennedy also said it well, ““In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.”

    Conclusion

    Families should support each other. They will suffer hardships and mistakes. However those will be easier to get through when you are there for each other giving love and encouragement. A close knit family takes a lot of work just like anything else. Family also brings so much joy that it is well worth it!

    So which ones of these inspirational quotes about family strength were your favorites? It is pretty hard to pick the best one of these family bonding quotes, isn’t it? Which ones do you think offer comfort to those that are down? Furthermore, which ones remind you that you will never be left behind or forgotten?

    Related Posts:

    The Magic Of Eating Dinner As Family

    A Disastrous Family Trip Could Bring Family Back Together

    Printable Family Tree Chart

    What Does It Mean To Be Family Oriented? More

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    The adoption process

    As family lawyers, we are experienced in dealing with adoption law and trained to manage the legal process. This national Adoption Week we want to explain who is eligible to adopt and look at what the process involves when adopting a child, to simplify the journey and help you be well-informed from the outset.
    Can I adopt a child in England and Wales?  
    First off, who can adopt a child in England or Wales?  To qualify you must be over 21 and happy to make space in your life and home for a child.  
    Now let us dispel some myths, you CAN adopt if, 

    You are married, living together, in a civil partnership, opposite-sex couple, same-sex couple or single 
    Employed or on benefits 
    Any ethnic or religious background  
    Have children or not 
    Own your home or live in rented 
    Already adopted a child  
    If you are disabled 
    You are not a British citizen (although you must have a fixed and permanent home here and lived here for at least a year before you begin the application process) 

    What is the process of adopting a child?
    To adopt a child, you must go through an agency, either one that is part of your local council or a voluntary adoption agency. (See links at the end of the article).  
    The agency will supply information, meet with you to assess your suitability, explain the process and provide the application form.  
    Once you have applied there will be a full assessment of you (and partner if involved) including: 

    Social worker visits on a number of occasions to assess your suitability to become adoptive parents 
    Police checks (You will not be allowed to adopt if you, or an adult member of your family, have been convicted of a serious offence, for example against a child.) 
    A full medical examination 
    Three personal references. One can be a relative.  
    You will also need to attend a series of preparation classes, often held locally. 

    What is the adoption panel?
    Your social worker will prepare and send the assessment report to an independent panel who are experienced in adoption.  They will make a recommendation based on your assessment.  
    This recommendation will be sent to your chosen agency and they will decide if you are suitable to adopt or not.  
    If approved, the agency will work with the local authority to start the process of finding a child.  
    How do they match you with a child?
    After matching potential adoptive parents with a child, the suitability of the situation for the child and parents will be discussed between the agencies involved. A matching panel will make the final decision.  
    When does the adopted child move into the family home permanently?
    Once a child has been matched with an adoptive parent/s, the process of moving in is taken, understandably, very slowly. There are a series of visits and stays, supported by your social worker to make the transition as comfortable as possible before moving in permanently.  
    How is adopting a child made legal?  
    Before a child moves in, Social Services need to obtain a Placement Order (unless the biological parents have consented).  This order gives Social Services the power as an adoption agency to place a child with a chosen adopter (you). 
    Once the relationship is working well under the Placement Order and the child has been living with you for at least 10 continuous weeks, steps are taken to get an Adoption Order.  
    What is an Adoption Order?
    The effect of an Adoption Order is to make the adopters the legal parents of the child.  The biological parents lose their parental status as a result of this Order, so it is an important step that requires careful thought. 
    If the child has been placed with you under a Placement Order, then their biological parents are not allowed to oppose an Adoption Order without permission from the Court.   
    In some cases, the biological parents may try to prevent the Adoption Order from happening, but you would know well in advance if that was going to be a risk.  The biological parents will be told about a hearing for an Adoption Order even if they are not allowed to challenge it, and so you can be anonymous on your application.   
    In most cases, the adopters do not attend the first hearing in case there are any problems with the biological parents, and instead typically attend when the order is granted. 
    Once the Court is satisfied that adoption is the best option for the child, an Adoption Order is granted and the Court confirms that you are the parents of your adopted child.  
    What are your next steps: 
    If you would like to find out more about the legal process of adopting a child you can get in touch with our adoption team.
    You can also download our Adoption Guide.
    Useful links:  
    Voluntary adoption agency finder:  www.cvaa.org.uk/thinking-about-adoption/find-your-nearest-agency  
    Apply through a local authority agency: www.gov.uk/apply-to-adopt-child-through-council  
    The charity Adoption UK runs a helpline: www.adoptionuk.org/helpline  More

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    Travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname

    It’s peak holiday season for UK families as the schools get ready to close for the six-week break. Travelling with kids can be tricky at the best of times but travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname can be complicated.
    Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher shares her first-hand experience and explains what a parent can do in advance to help prevent any issues.
    Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take action to avoid unnecessary stress.
    What is in a surname?
    Women are more likely to have a different surname to their children; some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name, others are married but have chosen not to take their husband’s surname whilst their children do, and of course, there are more and more unmarried couples who have children.
    The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations are designed to prevent children from being kidnapped and are all very understandable, but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many parents and their children. This can easily be avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. So, what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly?
    Documents you may need
    Much depends on your particular circumstances but the officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:
    Your child’s Birth Certificate:
    This document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.
    Proof of your change of name:
    This could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed. On my last trip abroad I also found carrying an expired passport in the name I held at the time of my child’s birth (and therefore as set out in his birth certificate) was very useful as not only did it show what my name was then but it also had a photograph of me and the Border Official was able to marry up the Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the expired and current passports.
    Prepare your children
    You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly. This is not the time for them to make jokes.  When I have been stopped at immigration my son was asked who I was, who my husband was, where he had been and how old he was.  It was made very clear that he needed to answer himself and I couldn’t answer for him.
    Consent to travel
    If you are not travelling with your child’s other parent, I would always ensure that you can prove you have their consent to your taking the child abroad.
    If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent if you are going to be out of the UK for more than 28 days.
    However, in every other case, you should have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility for the child. If you don’t have this consent or a Court order, you are committing child abduction.
    I always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.
    Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the costs by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack these multitude of documents. Happy holidays! More

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    5 tips for Father’s Day without the kids

    Father’s Day without the kids can be challenging when you’re separated or going through a divorce, particularly if you aren’t seeing your children on the day.  
    Perhaps you don’t see your children as much as you would like at the best of times, or maybe communication between you and their mother has broken down, and you are in the middle of a court process that will ultimately decide how your children divide their time.  
    Or maybe it just isn’t your scheduled time with the children, and you haven’t been able to negotiate a swap.
    If this is you, then the media hype surrounding Father’s Day might seem overwhelming, and it can be easy to lose yourself in feeling low or angry, concentrating on what you have lost and the “what if” questions that might be swirling around your mind.  
    I am here to reassure you that you do have a choice.  You can make a conscious decision to do something differently, to choose how you react, to reframe your thinking – and your choices will have a significant impact on how you feel.
    Focus on what you CAN do 
    Instead of focusing on what you can’t do or no longer have, shift your focus onto what you CAN do. While it’s true that Father’s Day this year might be different, and not the same as before, you can change your approach and focus.
    Ask yourself how you could make it better for you.  Can you Facetime with them, wherever they are?  Could you arrange a special trip out with them for the next time you see them?  Could you write them each a card?  Brainstorm a list of choices and decide to do one of them.
    On the day itself, shift your focus and do something that YOU enjoy and that you know helps you to feel good.  Arrange to see a friend, go for a long run or cycle – whatever it is that feeds your soul.
    Focus on the time you DO have 
    If your children aren’t with you this Father’s Day, focus on the time you DO have with them, rather than dwelling on this one day that you don’t. Choose a different day to celebrate with them. Do something special with them next time you see them – it may be easier to book on a different date, and you may have more choice.
    If you haven’t already, I suggest you create a list together of things you would all love to do, places you would like to go, people, you would like to see.  Keep it on your fridge and cross them off as and when you do them.  Save these new memories by taking photos and putting them up on a memories board.
    Your children will take their cue from you. If you are angry and resentful, they are likely to feel conflicted and stressed. When you are upbeat and talk about what you can do next time you’re together, they will take your lead.
    Tell the story differently
    Every time you talk about Father’s Day, notice the words you use, and how they make you feel.  The words you use, and the story you tell can have a big effect on your feelings.  Every time you talk about how terrible you feel, how sad or angry you are, you associate into those feelings all over again. 
    Instead, try talking about what you are going to do instead, and notice how that feels different.  Notice also how people start to respond differently to you – instead of feeling sorry for you, they may start to tell you how impressed they are, how proud they are of the way you are dealing with this.  
    Choose to stay off social media
    Whatever you do, don’t indulge in a little of what I can “torture by social media” – don’t go onto your Facebook or Instagram feed to see what all your Dad friends are doing, the fun they’re having.  Take a day, or better still the whole weekend, off your social media accounts.  
    If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same outcome – so if it isn’t working, do something else!
    It is your choices that will make the difference.  When you perhaps feel that everything else is out of your control, your choices and decisions are 100% within your power to make.  
    When you choose to shift your focus, tell your story differently, and protect yourself from social media, you are making active choices to do something differently – and you will get a different outcome.
    Article by Claire Black from Claire Black Divorce Coaching
    Claire is one of the UK’s first accredited specialist Divorce Coaches, a former lawyer, and Advanced NLP Practitioner. You can get in touch with Claire at www.claireblackcoaching.com or call 07722 007528
    Get in touch 
    If you would like any advice on a family law issue, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. 
    If you are struggling to deal with Father’s Day with the kids after a divorce or separation, the following websites have some useful tools and advice. 
    Families need Fathers 
    Hear other father’s experiences
    Separated Dads 
    Mankind
    Men’s Advice Line
    This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.  More