GW4 Network on Family, Regulation and Society

Accelerator Fund

Project period: February – August 2016

GW4 Community Leads
University of Bath: James Davenport, Ian Butler
University of Bristol: Emma Hitchings
Cardiff University:
Gillian Douglas, Leanne Smith
University of Exeter: Anne Barlow

Project overview

The GW4 Network on Family, Regulation and Society aims to find appropriate methods to investigate the new and unexplored ‘delegalised space’ in which disputes on relationship breakdown are now attempted in England and Wales following the withdrawal of legal aid and the encouragement of private settlement.

Following radical changes to the Family Justice System, the majority of couples now take a ‘DIY’ approach to managing family breakdown. Around 90% of separating parents do not use the courts to formalise child arrangements, and over two-thirds of couples who divorce each year do not pursue any financial legal remedies through the courts (MoJ, 2015). They are acting within a newly created ‘delegalised space’ of informal negotiations, mediation and online advice and support forums. Unanchored by family law principles or judicial processes, there is potential for injustice, generational conflict of interest and gender inequalities.

Understanding what is being decided and how online advice is used, presents a critical gap in the knowledge and scholarship on the resolution of family disputes. As ‘DIYers’ are a hard to access group, little is known about how they attempt to resolve immediate and vital issues.

By scoping and piloting the best methodological approach to capture the scale and nature of ‘delegalised’ activity and devise a means of monitoring and evaluating the outcomes, our network aims to develop an application for a large grant.