Law, state and the family : the politics of child custody
Law State and the Family: the Politics of Child Custody is an examination of the development of law and legal practices in relation to mothers and the legal custody of children. It maps the history of statute law and re-reads legal practice focusing upon the way in which these practices reproduce and sustain the conditions of motherhood. The first section documents the construction of the infant as a legal subject and the emergence of mothers legal rights in relation to children under the nineteenth century Guardianship Acts. The second section examines debates regarding the role of the state in the area of children and divorce following the Second World War. This section also examines the influence of ideologies of welfare upon the legal treatment of different categories of children during this period. In addition, this section also analyses the limited role which the law plays in the majority of decisions concerning custody of children following divorce. The third section documents and analyses women's experiences of contesting custody of their children through an empirical study of a sample of lesbian mothers. The focus is upon both the courts and legal processes involving lawyers and divorce court welfare officers. This section reveals the influences of notions of good mothering and perceptions of female sexuality upon those legal processes. The final section is concerned with contemporary debates in the 1980s regarding the role of the state generally in the area of children and divorce and particularly, discussions of the role of law in constructing children's relationships with fathers. This section addresses the issues of 'joint custody' of children and conciliation schemes through a discussion of the implications of these practices in America. This section concludes with a discussion of the general trend away from 'law' and legal rules in this area, towards 'private ordering' in conciliations. Finally, it sets out the implications of that trend for feminist discussions of future policy in the area of children and divorce in Britain.