I was a family law solicitor in private practice, including at partnership level in a career spanning 20 years. Having acted for countless clients whose relationship fell apart through neglect, I became interested in how to keep relationships vibrant and thriving. I undertook an MJur at the University of Durham (2005) examining legislation aimed, in part, at saving marriages. For my PhD at the University of Cambridge (2014) I interviewed couples separately but consecutively three times over the first four years of marriage to examine what helps marriages to thrive in the first few years after marriage.
I was a research associate on the Mapping Paths to Family Justice project which considered which parties and cases were better suited to which of three non- court family dispute resolution processes: solicitor negotiations, mediation and collaborative law. I was then a research fellow in the Law School, University of Exeter on the follow-up project, Creating Paths to Family Justice, working with family justice stakeholders to put into practice some of the findings from the Mapping project. A key finding was that family justice dispute resolution processes tend to be child focused but not child inclusive, leading to the marginalisation of children’s voices in the arrangements made for the care of children following parental separation. Concurrently, I was a research fellow on The Shackleton Relationships project. Here, I re-interviewed the 45 couples whom I had interviewed for my PhD, at year 10 of marriage. The research I will be undertaking in the Wellcome Centre brings together the findings from both projects. The findings from The Shackleton Relationship project will help to inform the work that colleagues from the Medical School and Graduate School of Education will be doing in schools around ‘transitioning into’ healthy relationships. The findings from the Mapping project will inform the work around making child inclusive mediation better understood and increasing practitioner confidence in the process, for those transitioning to life after parental separation.
Highlights of my research career to date
The book ‘Mapping Paths to Family Justice: Resolving Family Disputes in Neoliberal Times’ which I co-wrote with colleagues from the Law School and Psychology (and a colleague from the University of Kent) won the SLSA-Hart 2018 Book Prize.
The research I will be undertaking in the Centre
Transforming relationships and relationship transitions with and for the next generation. This project focusses on supporting healthy relationships and relationship transitions throughout the lifecourse. My work will look at how greater uptake of child-inclusive mediation might improve well-being and agency for young people as they transition to life following parental separation.
Something about me you can’t Google!
I competed internationally for the British Universities’ riding team when a student. A highlight was winning the ‘Dutch Nations Cup’.