Resolution of conflict in family law matters: An alternative and child-inclusive approach
Healy, Mary (Connie)
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This thesis examines the emerging area of alternative dispute resolution in a family law context in Ireland. Specifically, it explores mediation and collaborative practice. Family law mediation is well established in Ireland. Collaborative practice, however, is a relatively new process. This thesis considers the theoretical framework of dispute resolution, and against the backdrop of the family courts' system, examines the nature and role of mediation and the origins and development of collaborative practice in the United States. It assesses their effectiveness in a family law context, as ascertained through international research and extensive empirical research undertaken specifically for this thesis, the first known empirical research into the collaborative process in such a context in Ireland. It also addresses issues such as the impact of lawyers as agents in the dispute resolution process and what supports should be available for families going through a period of transition. This thesis also addresses the potential, if any, of mediation and collaborative law to provide an avenue for children to participate and have their voices heard in accordance with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Underpinned by a theoretical framework examining the development of children and the impact of societal and other factors on their ability to participate, this thesis explores the law and policy on the principle of the 'best interests' of the child and the importance of hearing the 'voice of the child' in determining such 'best interests'. The thesis examines these issues in the context of parental separation and the changes that may occur due to the recent referendum on children's rights (November 2012). It also examines the extent to which children's rights may, despite the referendum, continue to be difficult to enforce with parents, mediators, lawyers and judges acting as gatekeepers.