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Changing the Narrative on Divorce

Anna Whitehouse, also known as “mother pukka”, recently released a podcast entitled Anna Whitehouse on divorce, kindly untangling and magpie parenting. The podcast bravely details how she and her husband, now ex-husband, have navigated their separation and managed the communication with their children. Anna is hoping to use her platform for good, to change the negative and damaging view that we as society have of divorce.

Shortly prior to the release of the podcast, Anna shared the news of her divorce on her Instagram account. In the post, she wrote:

This isn’t a sad post or one for pity, really. You’ve seen us grow together and, perhaps, seen us grow apart here – and I don’t want our story reimagined or miscommunicated elsewhere. Matt and I are getting divorce.

It would be natural to say ‘sadly getting divorced’ but that’s not really the truth. That’s perhaps how society conditions us to see relationships that simply don’t work out for very human reasons.

He’s the most astonishing man I’ve men. Our ‘til death do us part’ just looks a little bit different. He will always be the father to our two little girls… He will always be my partner. Even if apart physically.

I’m so grateful for the last 17 years we’ve had together. It’s not the happily ever after told in fairy tales but there is happiness in there…

Of course, there are many people for whom it is wholly inappropriate to suggest that they look for gratitude and seek to remember and focus on the good. Of course, there are many people who would do whatever it took to re-shape their separation and divorce in a positive and forward looking step, but they cannot do so because of the approach and behaviour of their spouse. This blog does not criticise them in any way.

Kindly untangling

What is meant by kindly untangling? Anna and her ex-husband have demonstrated that it is possible to separate in a kind way, remembering and recognising the positives in your partner. I once heard an exasperated judge say to a couple, you must have liked each other once upon a time, you chose to have these children together.

Within the podcast, Anna explains that in communicating their decision to seek happiness separately to their children they told them they were best friends and would be going forward as best friends, and so there would be a change as they would not be living together. It was ‘restructuring’, ‘rebuilding’.

In a constructive separation, the impact on the children can be positive. They may ultimately have: more stability and routine; less tension and conflict in the home; and, space to have a loving and fulfilling relationship with both of their parents.

Magpie parenting

Anna is referring to a style of Nesting. Nesting is an arrangement whereby the children of the family live permanently in the former family home whilst the parents swop over as and when they are caring for the children. This can work well in the immediate period following the parents’ separation, and allows time for the longer term financial arrangements and housing to be resolved.

In circumstances where the parties can agree how to manage this, navigating the sharing of the household costs and the costs of a second home (or perhaps two second homes), and respectful share the family home space, it can provide practical and emotional stability for the children to remain in the home they know.

It takes a lot of trust on both sides, and ultimately both parties need to keep communicating about how long the arrangement can be maintained and be working towards a final settlement. The co-operation required will likely breakdown if either party is felt to be delaying progress on that front.

Changing the narrative

In April 2022, the law changed so that a divorce is now obtained on a “no fault” basis. This was a change long campaigned for by family lawyers and the group Resolution. It means that divorcing couples no longer have to find blame to obtain a divorce, reducing conflict.

If we want to reduce the negative impact of divorce on the couple, their children and the wider family, we need to remove the stigma that divorce represents a failure. Choosing to separate in a constructive way can be a positive achievement, it can reduce the conflict and stress in the life of the couple and their children, and provide new opportunities for the family as a whole.

Getting the right support in this moment of life is critical. Finding a solicitor who understands the importance of this approach, finding a mediator to support you through negotiations, or a divorce coach, or a therapist. Knowing what support is available and what will best help you and your family is key.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us for confidential family law advice.

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