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  • Author or Editor: Anne Barlow x
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This chapter draws on nationally representative research from the British Social Attitudes Survey 2019, to explore the differences between the legal expectations and lived experiences of cohabitants. It demonstrates that the ‘common law marriage myth’ remains pervasive, questioning assumption of conscious, mutual and autonomous relationship decision making, and compares this with Muslim marriage myths. It then discusses how the law should respond.

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The Right to Be Heard
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Recent legislative changes in England and Wales have eroded children’s ability to exercise their article 12 UNCRC rights to information, consultation and representation when parents separate. However, children’s voices may be heard through child-inclusive mediation (CIM).

Considered from a children’s rights perspective, this book provides a critical socio-legal account of CIM practice. It draws on in-depth interviews with relationship professionals, mediators, parents and children, to consider the experiences, risks and benefits of CIM. It investigates obstacles to greater uptake of CIM and its role in improving children’s wellbeing and agency.

Exploring the culture and practice changes necessary for a more routine application of CIM, the book demonstrates how reconceptualising CIM through a children’s rights framework could help to address barriers and improve outcomes for children.

Open access
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This chapter explores how, despite the UK’s international obligations to afford young people mechanisms through which to express their views when parents separate, the lack of automatic rights for young people to be heard in mediation curtails their ability to exercise their article 12 rights and agency, creating an effective barrier to greater child-inclusive mediation (CIM) uptake. It explains how there is general unawareness that children have such rights and there are four further critical impediments to greater uptake: a lack of consensus on the purpose(s) of CIM; systemic barriers such as costs and lack of awareness of accessible information about the CIM process for parents and/or children; lack of practitioner confidence, in both the process and ability to deliver CIM well; and the gatekeeping roles of both mediators and then the parents, considering these impediments in turn.

Open access
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This chapter draws together the themes and arguments made in the preceding chapters to consider the conceptual, legal and practical changes needed to build a family justice system that has mediation at its centre but which is fully compliant with article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Its primary conclusion based on the Healthy Relationship Transitions study is that there are compelling arguments for moving towards a family justice system that fully respects children’s voices when parents separate in line with their article 12 rights, if only to improve their wellbeing and mental health. Whislt incorporation of the UNCRC into domestic law must be the long term goal, it considers how child-inclusive mediation can be used to change the culture to accept children’s rights and test how a system can in practice take children’s information, consultation and participation rights seriously, ensuring young people exercise appropriate agency. Alongside statutory and practice reforms, it concludes such a move towards a relational family approach can, in the short to medium term, achieve a rights balance between children and parents, not present within the prevailing parental autonomy discourse.

Open access
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This chapter sets out our findings regarding which families were able to resolve matters in child-inclusive mediation. It reflects on the extent to which the child’s views had been acted upon and informed agreements reached about child arrangements to consider whether Lundy’s fourth requirement of an article 12 compliant service for children whose parents separate, ‘influence’ (Lundy, 2007: 937), was met. It further discusses, then compares, young people and parents’ satisfaction with outcomes and the longer-term impact on the family and family relationships. For the minority dissatisfied with the outcome, it concludes by reflecting on what seemed to be driving their disappointment.

Open access
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This chapter sets out the aims for the book as a whole and its structure. It explains it will explore the law, theory and practice of family dispute resolution from a children’s rights perspective, with a particular focus on the value of child-inclusive mediation (CIM). It sets out how it draws on new empirical research where, for the first time, children who had experienced CIM were interviewed alongside their parents, mediators, other relationship professionals and wider groups of young people. It indicates that the book will examine this process through the lens of the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and suggests that a shift away from parental autonomy-driven mediation to a process underpinned by a relational family mediation approach, which includes children’s views directly, might begin to fulfil children’s international law rights, as examined in the subsequent chapters.

Open access
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This chapter focuses on the interviews with relationship professionals working with or for separated parents and their children outside of the mediation context, outlining whether, in principle, they believed that young people ought to be given a voice in the decision-making when parents separate and the psychological, wellbeing and agency benefits (and risks) of doing so. It also explores their views on child-inclusive mediation’s role in giving young people a voice. Its analysis compares these views with those of young people in focus groups on these questions.

Open access
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This chapter sets out our analysis and findings from the authors’ Healthy Relationship Transitions study concerning differences between mediators in how the CIM is conducted. It goes on to outline the views of the young people in the focus groups and interviews in the study on age restrictions on CIM. It then explores how satisfied young people (and parents) were with the process of CIM.

Open access