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    How to manage the Cost-of-Christmas Crisis

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
    But it’s also one of the most expensive.
    The Cost of Christmas Crisis, as it has been coined, is taking its toll again this year. Recent research from easymoney has revealed that people are cutting down on their Christmas spending this year, as the cost-of-living crisis has an ongoing impact. 59% of us are looking to make cuts this year, with 55% of respondents stating that whilst they usually have an extra savings pot put aside for Christmas, they have saved less than planned.
    Financial Planner Jodie Phelps has put together some top tips on how to manage your money in the Cost of Christmas Crisis when the purse strings are tighter than ever.

    Be aware of the potential for emotional spending during the holidays. Stay mindful of your emotions and instead of using retail therapy as a coping mechanism write a list of other things you enjoy doing so when you feel yourself about to spend do the other things on your list instead (eg. take a bath, go for a run, call a friend)
    BUT, recognise the emotional challenges that may arise during the holidays and prioritise self-care; allocate budget for activities that bring you joy and contribute to your well-being
    Develop a budget that reflects your changed financial circumstances and keep track of your spending
    Create a list of people you want to buy gifts for and allocate a specific amount for each person
    Consider creative and thoughtful gifts that don’t necessarily have to be expensive (eg. photo collages, scrap books, experiences). Remember, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and creating meaningful memories, not just about the gifts.
    If you have a large family or friend group, consider setting limits on the amount spent on gifts or participating in a Secret Santa
    Plan your holiday meals in advance and create a shopping list. This can help you avoid last-minute, impulse food purchases/takeaways
    Be mindful of impulse purchases, especially when faced with holiday sales and promotions
    Look for discounts, compare prices, and consider using cashback or price-tracking tools to find the best deals
    After the holidays, review your spending and assess what worked well and what didn’t. Use this information to plan for the next holiday season.
    Make a note of your Christmas pay date when budgeting, as it’s usually earlier in December. Plan for the long stretch between Christmas pay day and January pay day
    Start saving a monthly amount for next Christmas so that next year you have money allocated for you to enjoy Christmas.

    You can find out more about Jodie on her LinkedIn.
    Relationship Tensions
    Financial tensions are a huge driver in divorce enquiries, and in a survey that we conducted, 60% of respondents said that the crisis was negatively affecting their relationship.
    If you do find that tensions around money build between you and your partner around this time of year, here are some suggestions on how to safeguard your relationship at Christmas. It’s important to remember that Christmas does not cause divorce and relationship breakdown. However, it can expose pre-existing issues, so getting to the root of the problem is very important.
    Stowe Solicitor Abi Jones has some top tips on reducing tensions around the festive season:

    Communicate – communication is central to healthy relationships and talking through your worries with your partner can help to alleviate pressure
    Lean on friends or family members outside of your relationship for support if needed
    Figure out where your priorities are, and if they are different to your partner’s
    If you have differing priorities, try to compromise and find where your middle ground lies
    Consider speaking to a financial planner or another professional – you can find our recommended partners in our Divorce Directory
    Try to focus on the positives, even if they seem insignificant. Small changes can make big differences over time
    Come up with interesting ways to celebrate this time of year together without the pressure of money
    Try to have some time together. Christmas can be a very busy time so spending time with each other is essential. It does not have to be big or expensive. It could be as simple as having a movie night together when the children are in bed.

    First Christmas After Separation
    Abi discusses how to manage your first Christmas after separation.
    It may be that this is your first Christmas after divorce or relationship breakdown. If this is the case, you may be more worried about money than you usually are as you may well have gone from a dual income household to single income. Not only this, but the routine and traditions of the day may also suddenly be different.

    Create experiences, rather than physical gifts
    Downsize your giving
    Use second-hand website such as Vinted or ebay
    Do Secret Santa instead of buying gifts for everyone
    Make home-made gifts
    Keep the celebrations small
    Don’t be tempted by payday loans, as this may cause more issues later on
    If you have young children, toy appeals may be available. Certain charities have toy appeals where individuals can donate toys which are then distributed between families
    Try not to compare your Christmas to others, either of your past or other people’s
    Manage the expectations of any children – let them know that change is normal but ensure they are informed of what changes, scheduling, what will be happening, where and when.

    Remember that Christmas is one day. There is a great deal of pressure for Christmas Day to be perfect, but it is just one day in the year.
    Think about how you want to spend your Christmas. Would you like to spend it with a friend, with family or even alone. This is an opportunity to make new traditions.
    Lastly, Christmas does not necessarily have to take place on 25th December. If this is the first year you do not have the children after going through a divorce or separation you can always pause your Christmas until the day after or have it before.
    Useful Links
    Financial Wellbeing with Jodie Phelps or watch on YouTube
    Surviving Christmas after Separation
    Child arrangements at Christmas
    Christmas alone with divorce and break-up coach Claire Macklin
    Budgeting solo during a cost-of-living crisis: Listen on Spotify or Watch on YouTube
    Supporting children through divorce: Listen on Spotify More

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    The best books to help children understand divorce

    It is regularly quoted that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce, but for the families behind the statistics it is incredibly new and unsettling. For children, it can be an especially confusing and worrying time. Reading books about divorce and separation with your child is a helpful way to support them through divorce, explain what’s happening now and prepare for the future.
    By exploring the themes through the eyes of other children in age appropriate books they can better understand their circumstances and emotions, and feel reassured that they are not alone, it’s not that fault and that change can be for the better.
    I have seen the positive impact reading can have on children dealing with the divorce process. Here is a list of books that I have used when working with clients and their children:
    Books for older children (recommended 9+)
    The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson
    When my parents split up they didn’t know what to do with me . . . My family always lived at Mulberry Cottage. Mum, Dad, me – and Radish, my Sylvanian rabbit. But now Mum lives with Bill the Baboon and his three kids. Dad lives with Carrie and her twins. And where do I live? I live out of a suitcase. One week with Mum’s new family, one week with Dad’s.
    Deals with: having two homes, blended families
    Goggle Eyes by Anne Fine
    Kitty Killin is not only a good storyteller but also the World’s Greatest Expert when it comes to mothers having new and unwanted boyfriends. Particularly when there’s a danger they might turn into new and unwanted stepfathers…
    Deals with: new partners, step-parents
    Mum, Dad Can You Hear Me? By Despina Mavridou
    Irene, is a 10-year-old girl whose parents are getting a divorce. In the midst of her confusion and helplessness, Irene turns to her diary to express her feelings and better process her parents’ divorce. With the help of her grandmother and her teddy bear she finds a way to make her parents listen to her.
    Deals with: expressing emotions
    Clean Break by Jacqueline Wilson
    Em adores her funny, glamorous dad – who cares if he’s not her real father? He’s wonderful to her, and to her little brother Maxie and sister Vita. True to form at Christmas, Dad gives them fantastic presents, including a real emerald ring for his little Princess Em.
    Unfortunately, he’s got another surprise in store – he’s leaving them. Will Dad’s well-meaning but chaotic attempts to keep seeing Em and the other children help the family come to terms with this new crisis? Or would they be better off with a clean break – just like Em’s arm?
    Deals with: rejection, absence, step-parents
    It’s not the end of the world by Judy Blume
    Karen’s parents have always argued, and lately, they’ve been getting worse. But when her father announces that they’re going to get divorced, it seems as if Karen’s whole world will fall apart. Her brother, Jeff, blames their mum. Her kid sister, Amy, asks impossible questions and is scared that everyone she loves is going to leave. Karen just wants her parents to get back together. Gradually, she learns that this isn’t going to happen – and realizes that divorce is not the end of the world.
    Deals with: family conflict and separation
    Books for younger children (recommended 3-8 yrs)
    Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray
    A little boy tries to find a pot of parent glue to stick his mum and dad back together. His parents have come undone and he wants to mend their marriage, stick their smiles back on and make them better. This rhyming story is brilliantly told with a powerful message that even though his parents may be broken, their love for him is not.
    Deals with: coming to terms with parents’ separation
    Where Did You Go Today? By Jenny Duke
    A little girl goes to the park with her dad and has a fantastic time climbing, swinging and sliding: the play transports her to imaginary locations, like sliding down a snowy mountain, sailing on a roundabout ship out to sea and racing on a camel in the desert while bouncing on her ride-on playground animal. Finally, it’s time for dad to take her home and say a cheerful goodbye to her and mum.
    Deals with: paternal separation
    The Family Fairies by Rosemary Lucas
    Rosemary’s primary aim was to provide the foundations for other adoptive families to help explain their own remarkable journeys… storytelling to help children understand that families come together in different ways.
    Deals with: the adoption process

    The Invisible String offers a very simple and reassuring approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand.
    Deals with: separation anxiety, reassurance
    Two Homes by Claire Masurel
    In this award-winning picture book classic about divorce, Alex has two homes – a home where Daddy lives and a home where Mummy lives. Alex has two front doors, two bedrooms and two very different favourite chairs. He has a toothbrush at Mummy’s and a toothbrush at Daddy’s. But whether Alex is with Mummy or Daddy, one thing stays the same: Alex is loved by them both – always. This gently reassuring story focuses on what is gained rather than what is lost when parents divorce, while the sensitive illustrations, depicting two unique homes in all their small details, firmly establish Alex’s place in both of them. Two Homes will help children – and parents – embrace even the most difficult of changes with an open and optimistic heart.
    Deals with: parents’ separation, moving between two homes
    The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman
    What is a family? Once, it was said to be a father, mother, boy, girl, cat and dog living in a house with a garden. But as times have changed, families have changed too, and now there are almost as many kinds of families as colours of the rainbow – from a mum and dad or single parent to two mums or two dads, from a mixed-race family to children with different mums and dads, to families with a disabled member. This is a fresh, optimistic look through children’s eyes at today’s wide variety of family life: from homes, food, ways of celebrating, schools and holidays to getting around, jobs and housework, from extended families, languages and hobbies to pets and family trees.
    Deals with: change in family dynamics, non-traditional families

    Mum and Dad don’t live together any more. so sometimes this little girl lives with her mum and her cat. and sometimes she lives with her dad. She has two bedrooms and two sets of toys. but she takes her favourite toys with her wherever she goes.
    Deals with: parents’ separation, moving between two homes
    Books for very young children (2+)
    I’ll never let you go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls
    When you aren’t sure, you’ll feel me near,When you are scared, I will be here.When you are high, when you are low,I’ll be holding your hand and I’ll never let go.
    A tender and heartfelt picture book. With reassuring words offering a message of unconditional love, and illustrations bursting with exuberance, warmth and humour.
    Deals with: comfort and reassurance
    Living with mum and living with dad: my two homes
    Mum and Dad don’t live together any more, so sometimes this little girl lives with her mum and her cat, and sometimes she lives with her dad. She has two bedrooms and two sets of toys, but she takes her favourite toys with her wherever she goes. This simple, warm, lift-the-flap book with bold and colourful illustrations is a reassuring representation of separation for the youngest children. Melanie Walsh is sympathetically alive to the changes in routine that are familiar to many children who live with separate parents and are loved by both.
    Deals with: moving between homes, changes to routine
    The Family Book by Todd Parr
    Some families have two moms or two dads. Some families have one parent instead of two. Some families live in a house by themselves. Some families share a house with other families. All families can help each other be strong!
    The Family Book celebrates families and all the different varieties they come in. Whether they’re big or small, look alike or different, have a single parent or two, Todd Parr assures readers that every family is special in its own unique way.
    Deals with: looking at different kinds of families
    Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney
    Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure. The story of Little and Big Nutbrown Hares’ efforts to express their love for each other.
    Deals with: comfort and reassurance
    Useful links:
    The Book Trust: Best children’s books to help talk about divorce and separation
    Get in touch
    If you need support and advice on getting a divorce, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team at the details below or make an online enquiry 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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    The impact of the menopause on relationships

    As our understanding about the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of the menopause and the impact on women during this time grows, the connection between the menopause and the break down of relationships becomes clearer.
    The number of UK women in the peri-menopausal or menopausal stages at any given time is estimated to be well over 3 million, a significant proportion of the population. Yet, it’s accepted that support for the multitude of physical symptoms and the considerable mental impact, and a true understanding of the menopause, is still woefully lacking.
    In a Stowe study on the impact of the menopause on marriage and relationships 76% of women felt their partner didn’t have the knowledge or resources to support them through the menopause properly.
    Furthermore, 68% of divorces involving women at this time of life were initiated by wives.
    Menopause and divorce
    Menopause is frequently cited as a reason for marriages breaking down. Rachel Roberts, Yorkshire Regional Director of Stowe Family Law, explained “We are noticing a significant increase in women in their 40s and 50s filing for divorce, citing issues caused by perimenopause as one of the reasons for their marital breakdown.”
    Our study findings supported this view, with 65% of women stating that their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms affected their marriage/relationship.
    Loss of physical intimacy
    A reduced sex drive is a common symptom of the perimenopause or menopause. The women we spoke to listed loss of physical intimacy as the area of their relationship most impacted by the menopause. 50% of women worried that a lack of sex would lead to your relationship ending.
    Top 5 areas of a relationship most affected by the menopause:

    We lost physical intimacy
    They didn’t understand what I was going through
    We argued
    We stopped communicating
    Grew apart or fell out of love

    Mental Health
    The menopause leads to a huge amount of change, both physically and emotionally, and managing the impact on mental well-being can be difficult. Common signs include anxiety, depression, problems with memory and concentration, reduced confidence, and low mood. As the symptoms can last for some time and often begin well before the cause is identified, the impact on relationships can be gradual, and difficult to define.
    Ours study showed that 77% of women felt that per perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms affected their mental health.
    Menopause Awareness
    Perimenopause and menopause can be an incredibly over-whelming time. While society has moved on from the over-simplifying term ‘The Change’ and recognised that symptoms go way beyond hot flushes, a greater understanding and improved support is still needed.
    47% of women felt that if NHS support during the menopause was better it could have prevented their relationship from ending.
    When asked what they thought could help them and their partner most during the menopause, our study found that greater awareness, more understanding, and better support, were vital.
    Top 3 ways to help couples deal with the menopause:

    Greater awareness of the symptoms
    Better understanding from your partner
    Better support from GPs

    The impact on relationships
    Perimenopause and the menopause can be a particularly challenging time for couples and both partners can feel confused and concerned as they navigate the respective changes. Inevitably, it can highlight existing struggles, further damaging the connection between couples.
    Based on our study, it’s clear that a better understanding of the menopause and how it impacts women’s lives, and open communication between partners, can significantly help couples.
    Useful links:
    The Break Up Club – Dealing with divorce during peri/menopause Webinar More

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    4 Types Of Toxic Relationship & Their Warning Signs

    Toxic relationships are difficult to define. As no two relationships are the same, there’s no one set of symptoms that clearly define an unhealthy relationship. However, the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one is often how it makes you feel. Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
    The negative impact of a toxic relationship is significant, affecting both physical and mental health. While healthy relationships have a foundation of trust, independence and respect for each other, unhealthy relationships often lead to feelings of low self-worth, a lack of agency, as well as feeling helpless, fearful, anxious, and often paranoid.
    The term ‘toxic’ doesn’t only refer to romantic relationships. It can apply to any kind of connection you make with another. An unhealthy relationship with a friend, a family member, or a co-worker, can be equally damaging to your well-being, but the most common signs that these relationships are toxic may vary.
    The signs that a relationship is toxic can accumulate over time and often the boundaries are blurred making it difficult for some to identify. However, if you’re drained by your relationship and your partnership isn’t equal, you might be in a toxic relationship. Signs that your relationship may be toxic:
    Toxic relationship: Friend

    They cross your boundaries

    If you have a toxic relationship with a friend, they might constantly do things that upset you or make you feel uncomfortable. Whenever you try to bring them up and set a firm boundary, they might become defensive or make you feel bad for wanting space. If they apologise, the apology rarely sounds sincere.

    They never listen to your problems

    While they might frequently come to you for advice, they don’t devote equal attention to listening to your problems. Whenever you need them, they appear busy, and every conversation tends to be about them.

    They can’t be happy for you

    Instead of celebrating your victories, they see you as competition. Your every achievement reminds them of their own shortcomings and means they feel they’re being left behind.

    They’re judgmental

    Instead of offering you mental support, they frequently judge your choices and make you feel bad for making them.

    You feel drained

    If the friendship feels suffocating and one-sided, chances are it really is. When your friend isn’t there for you when you need them, you end up feeling lonely and unsupported.
    Toxic Relationship: Family

    They compare you to other people

    No matter what you do, your family member is never satisfied. Somehow, you are never good enough while other people can do no wrong. If you have siblings, you’re often being compared even if you’re completely different people.

    They’re always right

    They always think they know better and treat you like you’re incapable of making your own decisions.

    They dismiss your feelings

    Rather than being empathetic, they’ll often simply tell you that other people have it worse or that you should be grateful for what you have. You aren’t allowed to feel unhappy and express any negative emotions.

    They pick on you

    They frequently make personal or critical comments about you. They might give you backhanded compliments, for example, “You look so pretty with makeup on, you should wear it more often” or “Are you sure you want to eat that?”.
    Toxic Relationship: Coworker

    They act superior

    A toxic co-worker might act like their role is more important than yours. Even though you might have the same duties, they feel superior and enjoy telling you what to do. Nothing is ever their fault, and they think they’re always right.

    They gossip

    They might frequently talk behind people’s backs, enjoy spreading doubt and deliberately turn colleagues against each other.

    They can’t work as a part of a team

    They struggle to cooperate because they want to look better than everyone else.

    They complain a lot

    More than venting about the odd bad day at work, toxic co-workers are never satisfied. They will regularly talk about how much they hate their job and feel every piece of constructive feedback is a personal attack. It becomes draining and can quickly causes discontent to spread.
    Toxic Relationship: Romantic Partner

    They have issues they aren’t willing to work on

    The key to a healthy relationship is mutual respect and growth. If your partner isn’t willing to work on themselves, they aren’t able to fully commit to the relationship. For example, your partner might have anger issues and throw things when you’re having an argument. They might not be abusive towards you but make you feel uneasy and unsupported.

    They can’t, or won’t, communicate

    Instead of talking things through openly and honestly, a toxic partner might disguise their feelings by giving you the silent treatment, lying, or becoming passive-aggressive. These manipulative tactics allow toxic partners to express their resentment or disappointment, while denying your opportunity to respond or express your feelings. This can leave you feeling misunderstood and isolated.

    Controlling behaviours

    Toxic partners often assert control over others using a range of behaviours including humiliation, intimidation, threats, and violence. They may isolate you from your friends and family, seek to control your finances, and monitor your time and whereabouts. This pattern of behaviour is often subtle and gradual, becoming apparent all of a sudden.

    The effort isn’t equal

    Your partner is emotionally detached and disinterested, unwilling to invest any effort or time into your relationship. They are always the priority. You’re always the one initiating plans, and the one who always texts or calls first. You feel you have to work hard just to sustain your partner’s attention, but your efforts never pay off.
    If you have recognise any of these behaviours or you have concerns about a relationship, it’s a good idea to seek help by speak to an experienced professional.
    If you need help and support understanding a toxic relationship 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 toxic relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers.
    Other Helpful Contacts
    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 More

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    How to prepare for meeting your divorce lawyer

    Understandably, your first meeting with your divorce lawyer can feel daunting and is likely to be emotionally charged. Whether you’re going through divorce for the first time, or you’ve been through divorce before, it is a life-altering experience.
    Thankfully we understand what you’re going though. It’s our job is to listen to you, to share our professional advice – tailored to your exact circumstances, and to guide you through the process of divorce step by step.
    To get the most from your initial consultation with your lawyer, and to ensure that you receive the most beneficial advice, here are our top tips to help you get ready for that meeting:

    Think about the outcome you want

    We focus on working together with you to reach your desired outcome and settlement. So, it’s useful to consider what outcome you’d like to achieve. Consider whether there is a workable solution that we can help you to realise, or if there are any areas that you anticipate will be a particular challenge.
    At Stowe, we have a team of people that really understand family law so you can be sure that you’ll have the right team of people by your side, whatever you decide.

    Come prepared

    It is always helpful if clients know as much as possible about the details of their finances. It’s also useful if you know the same information about your ex-partner and their financial circumstances.
    Where appropriate, during the first appointment we will discuss the value of your family home, any mortgages, and the details and value of any assets and liabilities (debts) you and your partner have.
    While it’s not necessary to provide exact details, or any documents, at this early stage, it is a good idea to do some preparation so that you have a good overview of yours and your ex-partner’s circumstances.

    Bring your questions

    We understand that this can be a time of uncertainty and can raise a host of questions, some of which you won’t have considered before you meet your lawyer. We’re here to guide you through the process, so don’t be afraid to ask us anything. There is no question too big or too small. If there is anything that you don’t understand, or legal jargon that you’d like explaining, always ask your lawyer.
    Our goal is to help you move forward in life. We will take the strain for you and be by your side throughout to answer questions so that you can move on from a position of renewed strength.

    Make sure it is a convenient time

    Seeking legal advice about your family matters is always beneficial, whether it’s divorce, child law, financial matters or any other family law concerns. By it’s nature it does involve sharing personal and sometimes sensitive information in order to inform your lawyer and get the best possible outcome. The initial consultation is an information gathering and option exploring exercise so it is essential that you are comfortable and, in an environment where you can speak freely.
    Ensuring you have the privacy to speak openly is key, so if you need to rearrange your initial meeting for a more convenient time, just let your lawyer know.
    Q. Can I ask a friend, or member of my family, to be with me?
    A. Yes, of course. A trusted friend or family member can join calls or attend meetings with you.
    Q.What happens after our meeting?
     A. As each case is unique the next steps are always tailored to your individual circumstances and will be discussed during your meeting as well as any questions that you have.
    As a client you can choose to go away and consider everything that has been discussed, or instruct your solicitor then and there, it is entirely up to you. There is no pressure at all to make any decisions.
    You’ll receive a follow up email after your meeting so that you have our contact details to hand should you need us further.
    Q. How long does an initial consultation typically take?
     A. The length of the initial meeting depends on a number of factors but typically takes around 30 minutes.
    Further reading:
    Your first meeting with a divorce lawyer
    Meeting A Divorce Solicitor For The First Time
    Get in touch
    If you would like any advice on on divorce, or other family law issues, you can read further articles or contact our Client Care Team to arrange your initial meeting with one of our divorce lawyers.  More

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    5 Reasons a Nuptial Agreement may be right for you

    Nuptial Agreements are made ether before or during a marriage or civil partnership and set out how a couple’s assets and property would be split should they divorce or legally separate. Here Vicki Rawlins, Partner at our Winchester office, explains Nuptial Agreements in more detail and shares the reasons why married couples should consider getting one.


    Whilst most people have heard of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, fewer people have heard of a Post-Nuptial Agreement. Both Agreements are similar in content and share the aim to resolve financial and practical difficulties in the event of a future separation as amicable and straightforward as possible.
    Pre-Nuptial Agreements are completed before the wedding and there is clear guidance as to the desired time between the Agreement being finalised and the wedding taking place.
    Post-Nuptial Agreements can take place at any time after the wedding and prior to any separation.
    Timing is therefore a factor to be considered to determine which Nuptial Agreement would be preferable, but one can be completed either during the engagement or marriage.


    A Nuptial Agreement is designed to determine how the couple will deal with and separate their finances in the event of a separation and / or a divorce or dissolution.
    Traditionally the Nuptial Agreement will set out how the couple wish to separate assets that one or both have brought with them to the marriage. This could for example relate to property, investments, or business interests. Consideration can however also be given to future assets that may be received or obtained during the marriage, either individually or as a couple. Examples of these could relate to an inherited gift or a property purchased together as a couple.
    Whatever terms the couple agree will form the starting point for division of assets if they do go on to separate. Whilst nothing can prevent one spouse from trying to override the terms of the Agreement, the terms of the Nuptial Agreement must then be considered, and the focus will be on that spouse to persuade the court that the terms should be changed.
    In general terms provided certain guidance has been followed by the couple when the Agreement is reached, and the terms agreed are not fundamentally unfair to one spouse, the court will seek to follow the Nuptial Agreement wherever possible. This therefore gives the couple the best available protection in the event of a separation.


    As a Nuptial Agreement will be completed when the couple are still in a relationship, it makes it much easier to focus on the practical and financial issues to be considered. Trying to resolve such matters after a separation is made much more difficult due to the emotions that both will be experiencing alongside likely major lifestyle changes such as a change of home. This is even more so if the separation has not been a mutual decision made by both spouses.
    Choosing to consider and agree these issues in advance, taking the couples’ specific aims and priorities into account, greatly increases the prospects of reaching a fair and amicable agreement.


    Terms are agreed between the couple and can be as wide or as narrow as they see fit. The Nuptial Agreement could simply deal with just one asset or could set out how the couple wish to divide all assets and income should they later separate. It is an adaptable document which will be tailored to the couples’ needs.
    Whilst it is possible to include in a Nuptial Agreement how they wish to deal with possible future events, no-one can see into the future. Something may happen which the couple had not envisaged, or they may feel differently about an event when it does then happen.
    Nuptial Agreements are flexible as they can be updated as and when the need arises, provided the couple can agree such amendments. It is common for Nuptial Agreements to include provision for review and possible updates at specific intervals, for example every 3-5 years, or upon certain events happening such as having a child. Ultimately whether such terms are included will be the couples’ decision and will form part of the negotiations.


    Nuptial Agreements will ordinarily save the couple time, money, and stress.
    If a couple separate without having had a Nuptial Agreement, negotiations will then be necessary. Various factors can make this a very difficult process. In those cases, the only option may be to begin contested court proceedings.
    In those circumstances the matter is unlikely to be resolved for at least 1-2 years, during which time the couple’s lives will often be in limbo. The costs of such negotiations, and especially court proceedings, will generally be much more expensive than the costs of a Nuptial Agreement. Finally, the emotional impact and stress that this will have on the couple is far greater than the alternative.
    Nuptial Agreements are growing in the UK and can be viewed as an option for consideration akin to financial planning advice.  Specific legal advice should be sought to consider the couples’ individual needs and priorities before entering into a Nuptial Agreement.
    Get in touch 
    If you would like any advice on Nuptial Agreements or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce 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