Divorce conciliation : who decides about the children?
Advocates of divorce conciliation argue that it is preferable to the legal resolution of disputes over children because it gives parents joint responsibility for decision-making which leads to more suitable settlements and ones more likely to be implemented. This thesis seeks to gain an understanding of the conciliation process and thereby test the assumptions implicit in such statements. It is based upon the examination of interview and observation material from clients and conciliators of one out-of-court Conciliation Service and includes a statistical description of the Service. It also discusses the question of responsibility for attendance at, and participation in, conciliation; concluding that many parents interviewed had not taken such responsibility. The major part of the thesis, based on a detailed examination of transcripts of tape recordings or conciliation appointments, argues that the construction of the problem is vital to the conciliation process and analyses the way conciliator interventions narrow the area in which the problem can be located and focus on feelings and relationship difficulties. It further argues that the process includes and depends on the construction of a particular concept of parental responsibility. This prioritises communication, co-operation and joint decision-making and becomes the rationale for a range of sometimes conflicting solutions constructed as a result ot conciliator initiatives. The later part of the thesis examines the ways in which conciliators seek to motivate parents to agree, relating this to the current conciliation/therapy debate, and to the use of expert knowledge. Finally this thesis investigates the influences on parents which are external to conciliation. This reveals complexities which may affect the outcome of the process of conciliation. It is concluded that much of the present debate is conducted on the basis of inadequate empirical knowledge and conceptual frameworks which produce a blindness to such complexities.