University of Sussex
Newnham, Annika Brandberg (with dedication page removed).pdf (1.88 MB)

The use of shared residence arrangements in English and Swedish family law: in the child's best interests or a covert resurrection of traditional patriarchal structures?

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:45 authored by Annika Brandberg Newnham
Shared residence was previously viewed with suspicion by the judiciary, but following D v D [2001] a line of cases has developed, where this order is said to benefit children, firstly, by helping them feel cherished, and, secondly, by improving parental cooperation and thus protect children from the harmful effects of exposure to their conflicts. This thesis reviews available research to conclude that shared residence is so unlikely to achieve either objective where it is ordered against a parent’s wishes, that the order should be restricted to families where both parents agree. Autopoietic theory is combined with feminist critique to explain the selfreferential nature of law, its tendency to prioritise children’s abstract need for fathers and its inability to fully understand parents’ complex disputes. The thesis compares the preconditions for, and use of, shared residence in England and in Sweden, concluding that despite better preconditions, Swedish court-imposed shared residence arrangements are unlikely to last, and can harm children by increasing their exposure to conflict. There is also, in contested cases, a worrying focus on equal rights for parents, with children who have grown up in these arrangements complaining of feeling objectified. This, combined with a growing emphasis in English case law on sending symbolic messages about status, is a strong argument against a shared residence presumption. It seems naïve to assume that new, collaborative co-parenting patterns can develop after separation merely because law coerces the adults into a particular kind of formal arrangement. The suspicion is therefore raised that law’s agenda is in fact something very different: to mask familial and societal change by making post-separation families conform to a binuclear pattern which resembles the nuclear ideal not only in membership but also in its hierarchical structure.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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