Journal Article

Doing the Right Thing: Cohabiting Parents, Separation and Child Contact

Karen Laing

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 20, issue 2, pages 169-180
Published in print August 2006 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online May 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Doing the Right Thing: Cohabiting Parents, Separation and Child Contact

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Over recent years, concern has mounted at the unstable nature of cohabiting relationships compared to marital ones, and also about the fact that any children from these relationships are more likely to experience the separation of their parents than the children of a marital union. The discourse of the Family Law Act 1996 holds that separating parents should behave in a conciliatory and reasonable way to each other, maintain contact with their children and continue to be involved in their upbringing, and ensure that financial obligations are met. This article uses data obtained through interviews with previously cohabiting parents who have attended pilot group meetings designed to educate them about the needs of their children on separation, to examine to what extent parents internalize this discourse when negotiating post-separation parenting. The article concludes that while parents may take on board the principles of this socially acceptable discourse, they have their own moral rules derived from their own histories and experiences of what it is to live their life and parent their child that they must marry with this discourse. The extent to which current family policy discourses and legislative frameworks can influence the behaviour of parents is therefore mitigated by their own interpretations within the context of their own lives.

Journal Article.  5304 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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