Anna Heenan, ‘Neoliberalism, family law, and the devaluation of care’

There is a conflict at the heart of family law between neoliberal ideas of autonomy, which increasingly influence law and policy, and the lived realities of family law’s subjects. Neoliberal norms, which assume individual responsibility, financial independence, and freedom of choice, do not reflect the nature of decision making in intact families or the consequences of those decisions on separation; separation raises multiple intersecting legal issues, including financial and child arrangements, providing an important lens for family law more widely. Drawing on the findings of original empirical research with separated parents, this article explores three key assumptions of individuals in the neoliberal paradigm: that they have equal bargaining power, behave economically rationally, and have freedom of choice. Not only do all three assumptions fail to capture the realities of separating parents’ lives, but they actively cause harm in the family law context by devaluing care.

Anna Heenan, Neoliberalism, family law, and the devaluation of care, Journal of Law and Society, First published: 4 August 2021.

First posted 2021-08-06 08:00:22

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