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    Support for domestic abuse victims during lockdown

    As we mark White Ribbon Day (25th November) and the start of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism, we revisit a blog written by Shanika Varga, a Senior Solicitor at our office in Leeds who explains five ways victims can access support for domestic abuse during the lockdown
    Support for domestic abuse during lockdown
    Most households in the UK will be closely following the developing situation with COVID -19 with worry and concern. In a time where people are being encouraged to isolate at home, my thoughts turned to many of my existing clients, male and female, who may be self-isolating in an abusive relationship.
    Having practised family law for many years now, I have acted on behalf of countless victims of domestic abuse. The ever-changing situation with COVID -19 is worrying for all of us, particularly those with underlying health conditions.
    However, I am sure it is playing on the minds of those men and women who are in domestically abusive relationships (whether that be with a spouse, family member or other person). In the coming months, it is likely that the number of people self-isolating will increase significantly and this for many could be the catalyst for a dangerous environment.
    The impact of isolation on domestic abuse
    Many abusers use isolation as a means of control. Keeping their partner or family member away from family and friends keeps the suspicion of others at bay. The current situation may also increase physical violence in the home for those in abusive relationships.
    This could be because the abuser has less concern that marks resulting from physical violence will be noticed or due to rising tensions in the family home resulting from people being in closer proximity for longer periods of time.
    Most people will find staying at home for long periods taxing but when you add someone who potentially has anger management issues it could be a dangerous environment for many people.
    Self-isolating in an abusive relationship with coercive control
    Domestic abuse goes further than physical violence, coercive and controlling behaviour was criminalised in December 2015 and we are seeing an increasing number of cases of emotional, financial and coercive control.
    Victims may find themselves being controlled by their abuser taking advantage of the worry of the virus or quoting financial concerns such as potential job losses, lack of access to resources etc as a reason to control. The difficulty with this form of domestic abuse is that it is often much more difficult to recognise for victims and their friends and family.
    What help is available for people self-isolating in an abusive relationship?
    If you are in immediate risk, you should call 999 and the police will be able to assist.
    Domestic abuse has been criminalised and therefore, the police, where appropriate may take both protective actions and consider prosecuting abusers.
    There are local and national charities that are able to provide refuge and emotional support during and after the process during this outbreak. For example,  if you, or someone you know, needs support and advice, you can contact Women’s Aid via the Live Chat here. There are more useful contacts at the end of this article.
    I have stayed in close contact with local agencies and one of the most important pieces of advice they gave was for those who are aware they are in potentially dangerous situations, to ensure they had a plan in place. Pack a bag with clothing essentials, money, phone and charger, and their passport and let a friend or family member know that they will be their “safe space contact” if anything were to happen. I appreciate it is not always so easy to hide a packed bag in the house, however, where possible, other arrangements such as somewhere to stay or a friend who knows that they may need to come and collect you and an agreed place to do this should be made.
    Throughout this COVID-19 outbreak,  all Stowe solicitors are able to work remotely including telephone and video appointments to ensure we are able to continue to help our clients.
    The courts are keeping the situation under review but many already have conferencing facilities to enable business as usual. This, of course, may change, but for the time being, courts are still open and it is understood that steps are being taken to ensure facilities are available where necessary. You can read the latest update here.
    Legal options for people experiencing domestic abuse
    There are civil remedies available by way of non-molestation orders (NMO) and occupation orders (OO).
    A non-molestation order
    Molestation involves any form of physical, sexual or physical molestation or harassment that has a serious impact on allegers health and wellbeing or the health and wellbeing of any children.  Molestation is not only defined as violent behaviour it may be other forms of behaviour.
    A non-molestation order provides protection from this behaviour, intimidation and general communication including text messages, emails and phone calls as well as direct contact. It can be extended to include a reference to not damaging any of your property and can in some circumstances, protect children. 
    It will also prevent and prohibit a party from using or threatening violence and can contain very specific provisions based on the particular type of abuse. 
    The order can also provide regulation to prevent one party from entering the house or certain rooms in the house. This can be used as an alternative to an occupation order and would be something to consider when self-isolation is necessary and in place.
    A wide range of people can apply for protection, from spouses to students living in the same house. A solicitor will explore whether a person falls into the permitted categories during their initial appointment.
    Applying for a non-molestation order
    To proceed with an application the necessary court form will be completed together with a witness statement setting out in detail what has taken place. 
    An application can be made to court either ‘on notice’ (the other person is given a prior warning) or ‘without notice’ in urgent situations where safety is at risk.
    A middle ground of ‘on notice but urgently’ can also be considered in certain circumstances such as if bail conditions are to run out in the next few weeks, as the immediate risk of harm is not present but there is justification to have the matter dealt with quicker than usual.
    The court will tend to err on the side of caution so where applications are made without notice or urgently, the protection sought will usually be made in the interim.
    Where orders are made without the other party being aware, they will need to be personally served on the other party by a process server. This means they are physically handed to them so as to prove they are aware of the order and cannot later deny knowledge to justify a breach. Copies are also sent to the police.
    More detail about the court process will be provided in an initial meeting with a solicitor but where an agreement cannot be reached between parties via legal representation, a Judge will hear evidence at a later date and will decide whether to grant the order or not.
    Typically, non-molestation orders last for a period of 12 months. They can be granted for longer but they are not usually indefinite. If, after 12 months the behaviour prevented in the order starts again, then a further application for an order would be made.
    In deciding whether to grant a non-molestation order the Court has wide discretion.  The Court will consider all the circumstances of the case including the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of the victim and any child.
    The Court will consider whether there is evidence of the molestation and whether the party and/or the children need protection and judicial intervention is required to control the abuser’s behaviour. 
    In considering the above the Court will regard the allegers health which includes both physical and mental health. 
    Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and the police can arrest someone who is disobeying an order.
    Occupation order
    This order sets out who can live in the family home (or certain parts of it) and can also restrict someone entering the area surrounding the home.  An occupation order will not affect the other party’s financial interest in the home, it will simply regulate who can live in it.
    It is the same application form as the non-molestation order.  The process for the occupation order will run alongside the process for the non-molestation order.  It is unlikely that an occupation order will be made in the interim. However, protection is often provided by the non-molestation order. 
    The approach to the ‘without notice’ applications for non-molestation orders is different to ‘without notice’ applications for occupation orders. 
    It is recognised that a person has no legal right to inflict or threaten violence or harm against someone else therefore a ‘without notice’ non-molestation order does not infringe on legal rights. 
    However, an occupation order overrides proprietary rights to a property.  The Courts have therefore stated that an order to exclude someone from a property that they have a right to be in should seldom be granted without notice.
    In deciding whether to grant an occupation order the Court will consider whether the alleger and any children are likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the other parties behaviour or conduct if an order is not made. 
    This will be balanced against any harm that the other party is likely to suffer if the order is made.  If the harm the other party will suffer is greater than the harm likely to be suffered by the alleger and any children then the Court will not make the order.  This is known as the balance of harm test.
    The Court will consider the effect of the other party’s conduct on the victim and any children rather than concentrate on what their intention was.
    The Court will also give consideration to each of the parties housing needs and housing resources, their financial resources and the likely effect of any order or decision not to exercise its powers on the health, safety or wellbeing of the alleger and any children. 
    The Court will also give consideration to both parties conduct.  This will include considering whether either party can afford to rent somewhere else or whether there is somewhere that they can stay, for example with a family member. The Court can make an order for an indefinite period of time or for a term. 
    Self-isolating when it is not safe
    I am very concerned about the safety of people experiencing domestic abuse during any period of isolation especially as it can make it harder to access help during these conditions. 
    However, please be assured that support is still available. I have gathered together some useful organisations who can provide you with information and support.
    National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
    The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
    The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
    National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
    Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
    Please note that Stowe Family Law does not necessarily endorse the organisations listed.
    Get in touch
    If you are self-isolating in an abusive relationship and would like support for domestic abuse during lockdown and your legal situation, you can find further articles here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist domestic abuse lawyers here. More

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    When a narcissist meets an echoist…

    We have all heard of the narcissist. In fact, I have written an article recently on how to identify if you are married to one on this blog.
    Throughout my years advising clients I have encountered many cases where the narcissist behaviours of one party have dominated the whole relationship leading to an unhappy and unhealthy marriage.
    But what of the people married or in a relationship with a narcissist? It’s time to meet the echoist; not an officially recognised condition but a term that was popularised in the 2016 book Rethinking Narcissism by Craig Malkin and is gaining momentum.
    Now, I shall start with the caveat that not all echoists are in relationships with narcissists. That would be too simplistic. However, the two personality types are intrinsically linked.
    What is an echoist?
    In a nutshell, an echoist is the opposite of a narcissist. Consider the following statements:

    Narcissist: Look at what you did wrong? The narcissist copes by blaming everyone else.Echoist: What did I do wrong? The echoist copes by blaming themselves.

    An echoist is someone who puts everyone else’s needs and feelings first and at the expense of their own. People pleasers, they cannot bear praise and hate being the centre of attention. They don’t like to talk about themselves but are great listeners. They blame themselves when things go wrong regardless of where the fault lies.
    All in all, a perfect mix for a narcissist who will seek out (consciously or subconsciously) people that verify their importance and allow them to dominate with minimal return required. A narcissist may often arrive on the scene as the rescuer, but this never plays out to be the case.
    However, an echoist is not a doormat. Smart, intelligent, kind and warm-hearted people, they are often more emotionally sensitive and aware than others. They are the ones that always pick up on a bad atmosphere in the room or an underlying argument.
    Many people root the development of echoist behaviours forming in childhood with a dominating narcissist parent or family member creating a learnt behaviour that they must repress their own feelings to be loved; that they must give everything and accept very little back. Imagine a parent that erupts over the smallest of things and it is never their fault. In the end, you would learn to anticipate the situation and change your behaviour to avoid it.
    Echoists and relationships
    An echoist can easily get stuck in an unhealthy relationship where they feel unworthy, unlovable and everything is their fault. This can quickly cause anxiety, depression and loss of hope as they struggle with connection and expressing their needs.
    They can easily lose their voice, their sense of self. I have seen many clients at the start of the divorce process that try to take up as little space in the world as possible, ask for as little as possible and put themselves at a very long line of other people.
    But it can change, and I have seen the results myself.
    New beginnings
    Before I turn to what can be done I would like to express that if you are in an abusive relationship you must seek help immediately. I have detailed some useful links at the end of the article.
    Counselling can certainly help here. An echoist needs to start to understand feelings and feel them – not fear them. Emotions such as anger and resentment are all perfectly normal emotions. By accepting them, you learn to voice them and start to develop more equal relationships where you can say you are not happy and ask for things.
    An echoist also needs to learn to question situations and break the default that it is all their fault, or they are too sensitive. Ask yourself what am I getting from this relationship? Why is it making me feel sad or lonely? Healthy relationships create a space for vulnerability.
    You can unlearn bad habits with professional support, time and the desire to break the old relationship patterns to get your voice back.
    If you are affected by anything in this article the following websites are useful resources:
    RelateWoman’s aidThe Echo Society More

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    How will a second lockdown impact relationships

    Sarah Jane Lenihan, Partner at our London Victoria office shares her thoughts on the impact of lockdown one and the potential long-term implications for relationships as we enter the second lockdown.
    How will a second lockdown impact relationships
    There was little shock felt as lockdown part two was announced by Boris on Saturday (31st October). It had been on the cards for a while and felt inevitable once our European neighbours reported theirs.  
    For some very little may change, but for others, this further restriction to freedom could be life-changing and have long-term implications for their relationship. 
    At Stowe, when we first went into lockdown back in March, we saw an initial dip in enquiries before steadily rising to an average increase of 30% during the summer months compared to those last year (with a peak in August of 41%).
    As family lawyers, we questioned whether this peak was due to people pausing their original plans to divorce in the early months of the lockdown before picking them back up as restrictions lifted or whether in fact, the pressures of lockdown led to an increase in relationship breakdowns. 
    As we enter a second lockdown, I do not believe that we will see the initial dip that we saw last time as the way lawyers and family courts work has become a familiar situation. People are now used to accessing services remotely, and ongoing cases will continue. 
    However, the extra pressure of a second lockdown could push already strained relationships towards separation or divorce.
    Surviving the strain of a second lockdown
    Has the novelty of working from home, having additional time to pursue hobbies such as yoga or baking that life was too busy to do before worn off?  
    Will we see the extra strain on parties’ relationship and an increase in separation or will we find that couples have survived this for much longer before and these few weeks will be a breeze?  
    Our experience from clients is that facing the long-term implications of lockdown: financial difficulty, emotional wellbeing, health worries, differing approaches to the risk of the virus and being unable to socialise, are adding an extra strain on couples’ relationships.
    This is backed by research undertaken by Stowe earlier this year which revealed that a lack of personal space topped the list of pressures people felt living with a partner (17%)—closely followed by mental health and financial difficulty (16%).
    Other pressures such as work stress (13.5%) and finding a partner irritating (13%) were also common factors.
    Isolating in an abusive relationship
    Sadly, the impact of a lockdown for those isolated in an abusive relationship can be devasting. 
    During the first lockdown, tragically, ten women and two children were killed at the hands of their abusive partners.
    For those people in abusive relationships, a second lockdown is petrifying with the thought of a further five weeks without being able to escape.
    However, for anyone in this situation, please be aware that the government guidance is very clear and household isolation instructions DO NOT apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse, regardless of what your partner may say. 
    It became very clear during the last lockdown that resources are severally underfunded, and many urgent calls were made to the government to rectify this. 
    Help and support are available – you can find a list of resources on the Women’s Aid website and how a family lawyer can help here. 
    Family lawyers and the courts continue to sit and are fully operational, so if you need support, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist family law experts to guide you through this difficult time.
    If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, you must contact the police immediately on 999.
    Further support 
    If you are finding the second lockdown tough you can access further articles on surviving lockdown here or for recommendations for counsellors and therapists that can offer additional support; please do access our Divorce Directory.
    Get in touch 
    If you would like any advice during the lockdown, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 
    We are offering virtual consultations for anyone needing family law or divorce advice and all clients.
    To arrange your consultation, call us on 0330 404 6063, and we will book in an appointment at a time to suit you. More

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    How do you end a civil partnership?

    How do you end a civil partnership? A civil partnership is brought to an end by obtaining a ‘dissolution’ which is similar to a ‘divorce’. 
    When can I apply to end a civil partnership?
    Just like in a divorce, you must have entered into the partnership at least a year before making the application for the dissolution. This is commonly referred to as the ‘one year bar’. 
    What are the grounds for ending a civil partnership
    To start the process, you will need to complete a petition setting out the reasons you consider that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.
    The facts that can be relied upon to prove that the partnership has broken down are as follows:

    Unreasonable behaviour;
    Your partner has deserted you for a period for two years;
    You and your partner have been separated and have lived apart for two years (it is possible in some circumstances to argue that a couple have lived separately albeit under one roof);
    You and your partner have lived apart for five years (unlike with two years separation, your partner will not have to consent to the dissolution proceeding on this basis)

    As a matter of good practice, you may also wish to send a copy of the petition to your ex-partner in draft before it is sent to the court. 
    This is with a view to the content being agreed and to encourage an amicable approach to be adopted from the outset.
    What is the process to end a civil partnership?
    Once the petition has been agreed and issued by the court, a copy will be sent to the respondent (your ex-partner) together with an acknowledgment of service form. 
    The respondent then completes the form, to confirm that they have received the dissolution petition and that they will not be defending the petition, before returning it to the court. 
    It is at this stage that you would be able to make the application for a ‘conditional order’ which is equivalent to the decree nisi which is pronounced in divorce proceedings. 
    What is the conditional order?
    A conditional order is a document which serves as confirmation from the court that you have satisfied the legal requirements to dissolve your civil partnership. 
    When applying for the conditional order, a statement in support of dissolution must be sent to the court as well. The purpose of that form is to confirm that the content of your petition is still accurate. 
    Once the application has been made, the court will then send a certificate to you confirming the date upon which the conditional order will be granted at a hearing. This is a public hearing and one which parties do not need to attend. 
    What is the final order? 
    After the conditional order has been obtained, you must wait six weeks and one day until you apply for the final stage, which is the ‘final order’. 
    In divorce proceedings, this would be the ‘decree absolute’. The final order will be the document which dissolves the civil partnership. 
    Sometimes, it is advisable to hold off from making this application, such as when financial matters are yet to be resolved. You should take advice from your family lawyer about this. 
    How long does it take to end a civil partnership?
    The process for dissolution is largely a paper-based exercise meaning that there is usually no requirement to attend a court hearing. 
    So long as the proceedings are not contested, the process is straightforward and can take between 4-6 months to conclude. 
    Defended dissolution proceedings are very costly and as such, are thankfully rare. 
    How much does it cost? 
    As the petitioner, you will need to pay the court fee of £550. The costs that you incur in relation to the dissolution can, however, be sought from your ex-partner or an agreement can be reached in relation to a contribution towards the same. 
    If you instruct a lawyer to help with the dissolution, you will have additional legal costs for their service. 
    What happens if my partner agrees to end the civil partnership?
    If your partner agrees to end the civil partnership, the process will be as above, and it is likely that you will both be able to deal with the process in an amicable and timely fashion.
    What happens if my partner does not agree to end the civil partnership?
    If you were relying on your partner’s behaviour to obtain the dissolution, then your partner would not need to agree to the divorce proceeding. This is also true if you rely on 5 years of separation or desertion. It is only the 2-year separation rule that requires the consent of the partner.  
    The only document that the respondent is required to complete and return is the acknowledgment of service form. If they do not cooperate and do this, then alternate methods of service can be looked into, such as having them personally served. 
    Once service has been effected, the dissolution can progress to the next stage assuming that the partner is not defending the dissolution. 
    Defended dissolution or divorce proceedings are extremely rare because of the associated costs. 
    Can I separate from my civil partner without getting a dissolution?
    Yes, you can separate without dissolving the partnership. Indeed, some couples choose to separate and then wait for two years so that can be the basis of the petition instead of relying on a fault-based ground (behaviour). 
    However, as a word of warning, if the finances are dealt with at the point of separation, it is important to have a document known as a separation agreement, drawn up to reflect what assets have been distributed. 
    This is because the court is not able to make an order (which is a binding and enforceable agreement) until the dissolution proceedings have reached the stage where the conditional order has been made. 
    It is the conditional order that empowers the court to deal with any financial claims. Whilst a separation agreement is not binding, it would serve as evidence of the agreement reached between the parties and could (by agreement) be transferred into a ‘consent order’ when the parties dissolve the partnership. 
    What are my financial rights after ending a civil partnership?
    It is often the financial matters that are more complicated to resolve. You must take advice in relation to the financial matters when you are dealing with the dissolution of your civil partnership. 
    Potential claims that arise from the partnership can be from any capital, income and pensions.  A solicitor will be able to advise you about your settlement options and negotiate on your behalf. 
    Each case will be decided on its own circumstances, and that is why it is important to seek professional advice so that the settlement is fair. 
    In addition, it is also important to deal with the claims at the time of separation as they will otherwise outlive the dissolution. This could result in a claim for assets being made against you by your ex-partner in the future even if you have been separated by formal order.  
    Even in circumstances where there are no assets to distribute, it is important that the claims are dismissed to prevent any future claims being made if your financial position changes, for example, inheritance. 
    What happens with arrangements for the children?
    Resolving child arrangements is a complex area of family law. The children within the relationship may be foster children, children born from surrogacy (including donor insemination) and/or step-parenting.  All of these areas require specialist advice so please consult with a family lawyer. 
    How can mediation help? 
    Mediation is often used by separating couples to negotiate with one another with the assistance of an independent and neutral third party; the mediator. 
    It can offer a more amicable and cost-effective resolution and provides couples with pragmatic guidance and legal information to help them reach their agreements. 
    You can use the services of a mediator to help you end your civil partnership and to agree on issues including finances, property and children arrangements whilst avoiding potentially lengthy legal negotiations.
    Get in touch
    If you would like any advice on how to end a civil partnership please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.  More

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    How to tell if you are in a co-dependent relationship

    Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder from My Family Psychologist joins us on the blog with her advice on how to tell if you are in a co-dependent relationship.
    I can’t live, with or without you. U2’s famous song appears to strike a chord with many of the couples that I have worked with in therapy. The saying ‘can’t live with or without you’ is a struggle faced by many couples. 
    You can’t help who you fall in love with, but when does a relationship become more than an intense emotional and physical connection and border into the co-dependency zone? Do you know when that line is crossed?  
    It can be hard to distinguish between a person who is ‘clingy’ and a person who is co-dependent. If you suspect that you, your partner or somebody you know is displaying traits of being co-dependent or that you/they may be in a co-dependent relationship, here are some signs to look out for. 
    (You don’t need all of them to determine whether you or your partner is co-dependent or whether.)  
    Ten tips on how to tell if you are in a co-dependent relationship
    1. You or your partner may exercise the need for control.  
    Control helps co-dependents feel safe and secure; and to be honest, this is not specific to them.

    We all want to feel like we are in control of situations but there is a difference between being in control of the situation and being a dictator of somebody else’s life which is a violation of somebody else’s boundary. 

    Sometimes you may not feel like you have control, and that can make you feel like you are being controlled. Co-dependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. 
    2. There may be addiction issues.  
    This is not true for all co-dependents, but there may be some form of addiction which generally acts as a means to help them relax or to add a sense of order or purpose to their lives. Whether that be substances, alcohol, cigarettes, working or cleaning, this can help them not feel out of control.  
    3. You may love the person, but don’t like them.
    This may feel like a contradiction in terms, but it is possible to feel love for somebody but not like the things they are doing or how they behave towards you. This can lead to a sense of feeling trapped or unable to leave. 
    You need to think about whether the positives outweigh the negative. Work on what isn’t going well and decide how you can work on this. Sometimes it will work out and other times, it won’t. What you risk doing when staying with a person whom you love but don’t want to be with, is resenting that person which is not a feeling that is felt lightly.  
    4. You or your partner may experience low self-esteem.  
    If you or your partner is experiencing heightened feelings of low self-esteem or feel like you’re are comparing yourself to others, then you may find yourself trying to be comforted or comforting your partner. 
    Underneath this veil of low esteem, there may be an underlying issue which is causing this feeling. If everything is going well, you won’t feel bad about yourself and the self-esteem issues should not be there.  
    5. There are poor boundaries in place or a lack of boundaries.  

    Imagine boundaries as being invisible lines which exist between you and your partner. 

    Having boundaries is important to establish the values of relationship, but this also includes your feelings, thoughts and needs. 
    This is where co-dependents can get into trouble as they tend to blur the boundary lines and may expect their boundaries not to be crossed, meanwhile overstepping other people’s boundaries. Sometimes, co-dependants can become defensive as a result of having poor boundaries.  
    6. There is a lot of ‘people-pleasing’ going on. 
    Saying ‘no’ causes anxiety to co-dependants, and they will go out of their way to sacrifice their own needs to accommodate others. 
    If you find it difficult to say no to situations and people and feel responsible for others unhappiness or turmoil, then this is only going to cause issues down the line when eventually it will become too much to handle on your own. 
    You need to focus on yourself, and if it is impacting your happiness, then you may need to evaluate the situation and not compromise yourself. You may also find little or no satisfaction or happiness in life outside of doing things for the other person. 
    7. There feels like a constant push and pull when communicating and interacting with each other.  
    At times, co-dependants have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings or needs to others. This can leave the other person trying to guess what is going on, and it will come as no shock that people are not mind readers. 
    Often you may be afraid to be truthful because as the old saying goes, ‘The truth hurts.’  You might find yourself pretending to be okay with something to appease the other person or find yourself compromising your own beliefs so that it does not cause upset. 
    You or your partner may threaten to leave but then change your mind. Communication can become confusing and dishonest when you try to manipulate emotions or feel like you are being manipulated out of fear.  
    8. There may be anxiety, obsessive or paranoid behaviour within the relationship.  
    You or your partner may experience thoughts about the relationship or believe that things are happening within the confines of the relationship without any evidence. This is caused by anxieties, fears and dependency about what the relationship means and how it could be destroyed. 
    There may be fears about infidelity or being hurt by the other. You or your partner may find yourselves questioning whether the relationship is a mistake and may find yourself lapsing into a fantasy about how you would like things to be as opposed to what they are.  This is to avoid the pain you may feel in the present and keeps you in a state of denial. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy. 
    9. There may be fears of rejection, abandonment and emotional unavailability. 

    Co-dependants need people to like them and want to be around them.

    They fear that they will be rejected or abandoned by people close to them, and this may stem from childhood attachments styles and previous experience in relationships. Because of the weak boundaries, they fear that they will be judged, rejected, or left.
     On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable. 
    Some people find it hard to be by themselves for long periods of time and require constant reassurance. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even if that relationship is abusive. There is a real risk of co-dependants feeling trapped or potentially making the other person feel that too.  
    10. You feel burnout or not do anything you used to enjoy doing  
    It is natural in a relationship to compromise as long as both parties agree to this. You may feel like you or your partner tend to get their own way with decision making (whether that be music or films to watch). You may find that you don’t do any of the hobbies or things you enjoyed doing before you got into the relationship or feel that you can’t do them anymore. 
    You may feel obligated to spend all your free time with your partner. You may start to feel worn down or exhausted with the relationship and might tend to agree just so there are no arguments. You may start to neglect other important relationships. This can impact your sense of personal identity and might make you question who you are if you enable this behaviour to continue.  
    How to change a co-dependent relationship  
    It is important to reassure you that anyone can become co-dependent and you are not abnormal if this happens to you. It is important that you do not punish yourself or your partner but seek support to get the relationship back on track if you feel that this is the right thing to do moving forward. If you decide to part ways, that is also okay and you should not feel guilty if this is what you decide.  
    Breaking up isn’t necessarily the best or only solution. To repair a co-dependent relationship, it’s important to set boundaries and find happiness as an individual.  
    A few things can help in forming a positive, balanced relationship: 

    People in co-dependent relationships may need to take small steps toward some separation in the relationship. They may need to find a hobby or activity they enjoy outside of the relationship. 

    A co-dependent person should try to spend time with supportive family members or friends. 

    The enabler must decide that they are not helping their co-dependent partner by allowing them to make extreme sacrifices. 

    Get in touch
    If you feel like you are or have been in a co-dependent relationship and feel like you may benefit from some support moving forward, then get in touch with My Family Psychologist. 
    We offer different individual therapies as well as relationship and couples therapies. This could be the first step towards a healthier relationship with yourself and your partner. 
    Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.
    Family law advice 
    If you would like any family law advice please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. More

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    The lockdown effect: how have relationships coped

    How have relationships coped in lockdown: Over the last few months during the UK lockdown, many relationships have been tested in ways most couples have not experienced before.
    Couples have had to navigate their relationship challenges intensified by the lockdown, for example fast-tracking a move in together or being apart for months.
    In the early stages of the pandemic, it had also been reported that China had seen a rise in divorce cases, and this naturally left people wondering will divorce rates rise after lockdown?
    This was something we spoke about previously on the blog, where Sarah Jane Lenihan, Partner at our London Victoria office discussed how lockdown was unlikely to be a root cause for divorce, and more likely to be a final straw in an already strained relationship.
    How have relationships coped in lockdown
    Whilst some couples are finding that lockdown is taking its toll on the relationship, many others have felt more united by recent events.
    Although it has been a difficult period with many factors causing stress during this time, it is interesting to see how a positive picture has been built overall.
    In recent research conducted by Stowe Family Law, we discovered that half of the couples say that lockdown has helped their relationship and that they now feel closer to their partner.
    Less than one in ten (9%) say that they have seen any negative effect.
    Because of the nature of the lockdown restrictions in the UK, partners living with each other were able to spend more time together and as a result, have grown a better understanding of each other. With many working remotely or on furlough, people have had more time to connect and prioritise quality time together.
    In our study, we found that 31% feel that they have had more time to focus on their relationship, and 21% think that that they can understand their partner better now.
    Taking relationships in lockdown to the next level
    A common trend over recent months and particularly just before the lockdown was officially announced, was for couples to take next steps in their relationship to be together during this time.
    This led to partners moving into each other’s homes and in some cases, with other family members or housemates.
    Our research also revealed instances where some couples had decided to take their relationship to the next level. This included getting engaged, buying a dog, and one couple who took part in the research had recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

    New pressures from lockdown
    Despite the overall positive outcome for couples, people have still experienced a range of pressures during this time.
    Many have missed having their own alone time and cite a lack of personal space topping the list of pressures they felt living with a partner during lockdown (17%).
    This was closely followed by other concerns, such as mental health and financial difficulty (16%). Other pressures such as work stress (13.5%) and finding a partner irritating (13%) were also common factors.
    Get in touch
    We understand that not everyone has had a positive experience in their relationship during this time and we are here to support, if you are looking for any legal advice you can give us a call on 0330 404 6090 or request a free call back here. More

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    Six surprising ways COVID-19 might have changed your relationship 

    Stowe guests: Ways COVID-19 might have changed your relationship 
    We are joined this week by Megan Han from Your Heartbreak Coach who is a certified Breakup and Divorce Coach as well as a Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming who joins us to share six surprising ways COVID-19 might have changed your relationship… 
    Okay, so you expected the rampant regrowth (shout out to all the blondies rocking their unintentional balayage). You dreaded, but anticipated, the monobrow situation. You even humbly conceded defeat when it came to maintaining your acrylics.  
     But what you *never* expected was the ways lockdown would impact your love life.  
     We’ve navigated (and are still navigating) a very strange and stressful time. And it’s totally normal that this near-apocalyptic state is making us re-examine our ways of living. 
    With regular life paused, we’re being challenged to take a step back and analyse how we can make changes to improve our health and happiness.  
     But it’s more than just realising you want to change careers, go on an adventure or move somewhere new. Your love life is in the spotlight and everything you might have been able to ignore or avoid pre-crisis is glaringly clear now.  
     … Which is probably why you’ve been giving your significant other the suspicious side-eye recently.  
     Trust me, you’re not alone.  
     Here are the things that *might* be going through your mind (and changing in your relationship!) right now.  
     For couples living apart … 
     #1. You’ve realised you don’t miss them.  
     Like, at all. Absence is meant to make the heart grow fonder, but you’re feeling decidedly *shrug* about the distance between you and your partner right now. In fact, you’re in absolutely no rush to return to your significant other.  
     #2. You’re questioning your compatibility. 
     Pre-COVID-19, there were plenty of ways to hang out with your partner without actually having to engage with them on a meaningful level. Now that the distractions have disappeared, you’re staring at your partner on your phone screen, and realising that you have very little in common.   
     #3. You’re finding it hard to connect with them.  
    Whether they’ve gone MIA and feel more distant than usual, or you’re struggling to find ways to feel close when lockdown demands you stay apart, the end result is the same: You’re just not connecting as deeply with them anymore.  
     For couples living together … 
     #1. You’re far more easily irritated by them.  
     Living in such close quarters all the bloody time has you scowling at their tendency to leave dirty dishes in the sink, filthy socks on the bathroom floor and wet towels on the bed. And while you might have been able to ignore it pre-COVID-19, now it seems like a deal-breaker.  
     #2. You’re wondering whether they’re really right for you.  
     There you are, staring up at the ceiling at 3am while your significant other obliviously snores next to you. And you can’t help but wonder: Is this really the person you’re going to spend your life with? 
     #3. You’re fighting a lot more.  
     The uncertainty and anxiety COVID-19 has created means your household might be feeling a lot more on edge and tense at the moment. And while pressure might make diamonds, it makes us humans irritable. Which means … arguments. A lot of them. Over the big things, the little things and the totally random things.  
     … Which is all to say: You feel like a breakup *might* be impending. 
     How you view your relationship through the lens of lockdown likely depends on the shape it was in before COVID-19.  
     But before you utter those fateful words, here are three questions to ask yourself: 

    Are your feelings of discontent permanent? Or have recent events just gotten under your skin?  
    Can the relationship be saved? If there’s one thing I know, it’s that no relationship is perfect. Can your problems be fixed, or are they unfixable? 
    Is there a chance you’ll regret your decision? It’s normal to second-guess big decisions, but before you pull the trigger, make sure you’ve thought about question number two and are confident that splitting up is best for you.  

     Still feel like a breakup could be inevitable? 
    Get in touch 
    You don’t have to go through this alone. You can contact Megan on 07912 810 782, or email:
    Book in for your complimentary 30-minute call to explore how you can transform confusion into clarity for your heart-fuelled future.  
     Megan Han is a certified Breakup and Divorce Coach as well as a Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. She specialises in helping women around the world ditch heartbreak hell and step forward into their dream lives instead.
    Family law advice 
    If you would like any advice on ending a relationship and the family law implications you can find about our legal services here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here.  More

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    Steadying yourself when you wobble during separation and divorce

    Support through divorce and separation: Danielle Barbereau, specialist divorce coach and author joins us as part of the Stowe guests programme to offer helpful tips and advice on how to steady yourself if you are having a wobble during a divorce or separation, particularly during the current global pandemic. 
    If you are going through a painful separation, it is all too easy to feel that you have lost control of your life and that everyone else is calling the shots. 
    This is especially the case during this COVID-19 pandemic. 
    To make matters even worse, the fear of the future; the worry about the health and wellbeing of loved ones; money and job worries; the excruciating pain of not seeing your children when they stay with the other parent; and worse, when the other parent does not comply with parenting orders; all contribute to making the breakup incredibly difficult. 
    Yet, I know that even in the worst times, we can find some relief.  
    First things first, you need to steady yourself. 
    These are a few tips, which are the results of many hours spent working with people who are going through painful breakups.
    Some may hopefully resonate with you:  

    As bad as things seem at the moment, these times will pass  
    Accept where you are. Don’t dwell on what you can’t change. This will make moving forward easier   
    You are going through life-changing emotions; it’s OK to feel these emotions  
    Recovery takes time. You cannot just bounce back; you need to go through a process  
    Be kind to yourself  
    At the end of each day, write ONE accomplishment from your day you are proud of  
    Move, get some exercise and fresh air 
    If you are starting to panic, breathe deeply and repeat 3 times: ‘I accept myself as I am and I can deal with this’. This is an affirmation which will help ground you 
    Take some control back 

    Regaining some form of control at this time is crucial, but it may seem impossible to do. Yet, I encourage you to seek small ways of regaining control. This can be achieved by making some changes in your life. 
    Initially, these changes may be small: eating foods your partner did not like, going to bed at a different time, watching DVDs they would have disliked. 
    What is important here is to do things that you did not do when they were around. Do something new, however small a step that feels. As time goes on the changes will be bigger and more significant.   
    Take my client Josie for example:

    ‘After he left, one day I sat in ‘his’ armchair. Suddenly I saw our living room from a new angle. I was in charge. It felt good.’  

    This is a good example because not only is it a new step, albeit apparently small, sitting in ‘his’ chair, but is ‘daring’ because it challenges the former status quo. For Josie, it felt like a victory. She began to realise at that point that she would survive and be OK.  
    Aim at making at least one change a day, every day and observe the sense of achievement you feel. 
    Challenging yourself is good on several levels. It takes you out of your comfort zone; it also shows you that you are capable of achieving something by yourself, and it makes you feel independent and more in charge of your life. 
    When your partner goes, your confidence is shattered. It is absolutely vital to work on rebuilding it. Challenging yourself is a way of rebuilding fragile confidence.   
    Emerging and recovering from pain is a slow process. It doesn’t happen in a tidy straight line. We go through ups and downs, peaks and troughs. Pain and grief, just like love, are personal emotions and no-one reacts exactly in the same way.  
    All we can do is realise that we are grieving, that the process is running its course.   
    Remember: this too will pass and you will get better! 
    Support through divorce and separation
    You can contact Danielle on 07860 801693, email: or visit:
    Legal advice for divorce
    If you would like support through divorce and separation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.  More