Journal Article

‘So Presumably Things Have Moved on Since Then?’ The Management of Risk Allegations in Child Contact Dispute Resolution

Liz Trinder, Alan Firth and Christopher Jenks

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 24, issue 1, pages 29-53
Published in print April 2010 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online December 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/ebp010
‘So Presumably Things Have Moved on Since Then?’ The Management of Risk Allegations in Child Contact Dispute Resolution

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Over the past decade, considerable efforts have been made to ensure that domestic violence and child protection issues are identified, assessed, and managed appropriately within the family justice system. These efforts follow sustained criticism that allegations of harm have been previously overlooked or marginalised within court processes, including in private law cases concerning residence and contact disputes following parental separation. In this article, however, we argue that allegations of harm continue to be marginalised in court-based dispute resolution. Our findings are based on a detailed study of 15 in-court conciliation or court-based dispute resolution sessions. We use conversation analysis to examine in detail precisely how allegations are overlooked or downgraded. We find that conciliators routinely ignore, reframe, or reject allegations unless there is an existing external evidence to support the claim. However, the precise way in which marginalisation occurs is contextual and interactional, shaped not least by the specificity or persistence of allegations presented by parents. We suggest that the conciliator's handling of allegations reflects a particular understanding of their institutional role and tasks that centre upon settlement, contact, and case processing seemingly at the expense of risk management.

Journal Article.  9022 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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