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Behind Closed Doors - Lesbian Mother UK

Behind Closed Doors - Lesbian Mother UK

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Published by mwjackso
This paper is a submitted research proposal - while the paper may not be my best work the proposal still parallels my previous work on Bottom's Up - which is in my catalog but focuses on the court system of the UK.
This paper is a submitted research proposal - while the paper may not be my best work the proposal still parallels my previous work on Bottom's Up - which is in my catalog but focuses on the court system of the UK.

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Published by: mwjackso on Apr 15, 2009
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06/28/2012

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Candidate No 60744Page 1 of 12LAWDM0084Advanced Legal and Socio-Legal Research MethodsResearch Proposal:
Title:
 Behind Closed Doors:The Lesbian Mother & The Family Courts of England & Wales
 
Background:
The focus of this research is the identification of possible disadvantages or  bias within the Family Courts of England and Wales upon the Lesbian mother. Theresearch will seek to assess the impact of the sexual orientation of the parent on thecustody decisions rendered by the Family Courts. This research is complicated by thefact that the Family
1
Courts of England and Wales are sealed and the records are notavailable for public review
2
.The motivation for this work stems from previous review of custody disputesinvolving the sexual orientation of the parent in the United States
3
. The previouswork however was greatly unstructured and left many avenues to explore involvingthe actual bias that may be present within the court system of the United States
4
.However, the Family Courts of England and Wales provide a wonderful opportunityto take this research beyond the participants in the process to question the structure of the judicial process in general. The significance of closed courts is that the public or other similarly situated individuals have limited information on these issues and
1
See: Lowe, N & Douglas, G,
 Bromley’s Family Law10th Edition
, Oxford University Press, 2007.
2
Note: Contrary to the statement above concerning the courts in England and Wales the courts in theUnited States do not have sealed files unless it is deemed necessary for the protection of the child or individuals involved in the dispute. Therefore access to court documents and pleadings is less of a barrier to research.
3
See Bottoms v. Bottoms 444 S.E. 2d 276 (Va. Ct. App. 1994) rev’d 457 S.E.2d 102 (Va. 1995).
4
Note: This statement does not imply that there is a federal or universal level of courts for familydisputes in the United States. Family matters are handled by the individual State courts of the UnitedStates. Therefore there are possibly 50+ different states or territories to conduct research.
 
Candidate No 60744Page 2 of 12LAWDM0084Advanced Legal and Socio-Legal Research Methodstherefore a lack of resources to bring to the child custody hearings to ensure equalfooting amongst the participants
5
.This work has real world relevance and as well is a means not only to address bias within the courts when it comes to lesbian mothers but as well provide a researchframework to look at other under-represented groups. The most striking example of the relevance of this work is a letter to the editor of DIVA in the May 2007 issuewhich asked about the resources for a mother seeking to deal with a custody disputeconcerning her children as she sought to leave a previous marriage where her husbandwas telling her GP and other individuals of her sexuality and seeking to use it asevidence in the dispute
6
.
Research Questions:
1.
 
Is there quantifiable bias present within the Family Courts of England &Wales which would adversely impact the lesbian mother?2.
 
Does this bias stem from a larger social stigma or bias towards the sexualorientation of the parent?3.
 
Does this bias impact younger or older lesbian mothers and as such is thisvariance quantifiable with the chosen research methods?4.
 
Does the closed nature of the family courts provide an access problem to theinformation sought and would research involving exclusively the parents beviable if access to court files proves impossible?5.
 
Should the structure of the family courts be called into question concerningaccess to information versus the overall benefit to other similarly situated parents?6.
 
Does this bias appear to be a product of the parties in dispute or is it inherentin the court personnel and actors in the child custody dispute process.
5
Note: Concerning the limited information available to lesbian mothers it would be inappropriate notto mention the book by Harne,L and Rights of Women,
Valued Families: The lesbian Mothers’ Legal  Handbook 
, Caledonian International, 1997. This books provides a beneficial resource to lesbianmothers and does cover some aspects of the current legal state of Family law in England and Wales theonly limitation is that it has not been updated since 1997.
6
See Anon, KID CRISIS, pg 9 in Czyzselska, J, DIVA, Issue 132, May 2007, Millivres Prowler Publication, website located athttp://www.divamag.co.uk  
 
Candidate No 60744Page 3 of 12LAWDM0084Advanced Legal and Socio-Legal Research Methods7.
 
Which research method is more beneficial to discovering evidence of biaswithin the Family Courts, qualitative or quantitative approach? Or is acombination of methods more appropriate?The desired outcome of this research is to flag possible problem areas within thecourts and to look for solutions to remove bias based on sexual preference or lifestylefrom custody hearings.
Research Methods:
The goal of this research is to bring a personal side to the custody disputes between parties within the Family Courts of England and Wales. The most beneficialmeans of bringing such a personal side to any socio-legal matter is provide evidencethrough actual individuals involved and to find these individuals it will be necessaryto utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods. Through the use of a combinationof techniques it should be possible to gain access to the community of lesbian mothersin England and Wales. However, it remains that one of the most challenging aspectsof this research is gaining access.AccessAccess to actual lesbian mothers that have had custody disputes or are in the process of being involved in a custody dispute is essential to the success of thisresearch. However, there are many possible pitfalls that arise when trying to gainaccess to such a group of individuals. The most obvious access issue as suggested bymany academics in the field of gender studies is the biological sex of the researcher 
7
.In the interest of full disclosure in this proposal the biological sex of the researcher ismale. This has provided many questions concerning access to lesbian groups and
7
Note: The reference to academics in the field concerns correspondence between the author of this proposal and Leanne Smith at Cardiff, Carol Smart at Manchester, Judith Masson at Bristol, andGillian Dunne at Plymouth.

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