Research Publications

Members of the Law School produce a range of research publications, a selection of which are showcased here.

Assembling the jigsaw puzzle (2013)

This is the first report from a mixed methods study of the settlement of financial cases on divorce, combining data from two sources: (1) a court file survey of nearly 400 cases resulting in a financial order following divorce from four courts in different regions of England; (2) semi-structured interviews with 32 family justice practitioners - 22 solicitors (six of whom are also qualified as mediators) and 10 mediators. This area of law and practice has been the subject of relatively little empirical research in the last decade, in particular since the advent of new procedures for the conduct of these cases in 2000. We aim through this study to help fill the resulting research gap identified in the recent Family Justice Review, to highlight various problems currently evident in practice and to explore potential policy implications.

Assembling the jigsaw puzzle (PDF, 1,023kB)

Emma Hitchings, Joanna Miles and Hillary Woodward, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge and University of Cardiff, November 2013 (PDF, 199 pages, 1,024KB)

Research Report for the Law Commission (2011)

A study of the views and approaches of family practitioners concerning marital property agreements Law Commision (PDF, 638kB)

Emma Hitchings University of Bristol, Law School (PDF, 143 pages, 638KB)

Care Profiling Study (2006-08)

The Care Profiling Study was jointly commissioned by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (now known as the Ministry of Justice) and the Department of Education and Skills (now known as the Department for Children, Schools and Families) in September 2006. The aim of the project was to provide baseline data on court proceedings for the protection of children brought under the Children Act 1989, s.31. The Protocol for Judicial Case Management in Public Law Children Act Cases applied to these proceedings. The DfES and DCA, Care Proceedings System Review (2006) had identified limitations in the existing data.

Research Summary: Care Profiling Study (PDF, 145kB), Ministry of Justice, March 2008 (PDF, 3 pages, 146KB)

Judith Masson, Julia Pearce and Kay Bader with Olivia Joyner, Jillian Marsden and David Westlake, School of Law, University of Bristol, Care Profiling Study Report (PDF, 746kB), Ministry of Justice Research Series, 4/08 March 2008 (PDF, 128 pages, 747KB)

Collaborative Research Events on the Web (2007-09)

The Collaborative Research Events on the Web (CREW) Research Project aimed to improve access to research event content, by creating an architecture for capturing and publishing the scholarly communication that occurs at events like conferences and workshops.    The project team was drawn from the University of Manchester and University of Bristol, led by Michael Daw at the University of Manchester, and funded by the Joint information Systems Committee (JISC).  A CREW deliverable was a report written by Andrew Charlesworth and Nikki Rogers (ILRT, Bristol) on the legal and ethical issues raised by the project.

Rogers, N. & Charlesworth A. The CREW Project - Legal and Ethical Issues (PDF, 979kB), February 2009 (PDF, 35 pages, 950KB)

Digital Lives (2008-10)

The Digital Lives Research Project was designed to provide a major pathfinding study of personal digital collections. The project team was drawn from the British Library, University College London and University of Bristol, led by Dr Jeremy Leighton John of the British Library (the lead partner), and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).  A key deliverable was a report written by Andrew Charlesworth on the legal and ethical issues surrounding the collection and preservation of, and access to, personal digital archives, by repositories, including the legal deposit libraries, and other non-deposit organisations.

Charlesworth A. Digital Lives Legal and Ethical Issues (PDF, 2,282kB), October 2009 (PDF,  91 pages, 2.2MB)

Parents' Representation Study (2008-10)

The Parents' Representation Study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC RES-062-23-1163), focused on the work of parent’s lawyers in this type of case, using observations of meetings and hearings together with interviews to develop an in-depth understanding of practice in care proceedings. The research explored parent’s lawyers’ contribution to decision-making, particularly how lawyers supported their clients and negotiated with other lawyers during the protracted process of establishing whether children could continue to be cared for by their parents. This area of practice has been the focus of changes both to court process and legal aid funding for solicitors; the research examined how these changes impacted on lawyers and on their work for their clients.

Pearce, J. &  Masson, J. with Bader, K. Just following instructions? The representation of parents in care proceedings (PDF, 840kB), March 2011 (PDF, 199 pages, 840kb)

Research summary: Parents' Representation Study (PDF, 156kB)

Conference Paper: The use of experts in child care proceedings in England and Wales: benefits, costs and controls (PDF, 259kB), Annual Legal Research Network Conference 2010, October 2010, University of Groningen.

Care proceedings Report (2013)

Professor Judith Masson of the School of Law and Dr Jonathan Dickens, senior lecturer in social work at UEA, found that the ‘pre-proceedings process’ introduced in 2008 can help parents avoid care proceedings. The pre-proceedings process involves social workers writing to parents, who are at risk of care proceedings and inviting them to a meeting to discuss this. The letter qualifies parents for free legal aid so that they can have legal advice at this meeting. Legal advice, and the discussion with social workers at the meeting, encouraged parents to engage with Children’s Services, to make use of the services offered, and to improve their parenting or agree to their children being looked after by relatives or foster carers. Around a quarter of cases remained out of care proceedings, with two-thirds of parents improving their care, and the other third agreeing to alternative care.

The process was less successful in another of its aims – to enable courts to decide cases more quickly. There was no difference between the length of cases where social workers first followed the pre-proceedings process and those that went straight to court. The time spent on the pre-proceedings process meant that applications to court were delayed. It had been intended that the time spent in pre-proceedings would be balanced by shorter proceedings but this did not happen; courts took little or no account of social workers’ pre-proceedings work.

The research was funded by a grant from the ESRC RES-062-23-2226. The report – Partnership by law? (PDF, 2,614kB)  and a summary (PDF, 246kB) are available.

Judith Masson, Jonathan Dickens with Kay Bader and Julie Young, , Law School, University of Bristol and Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of East Anglia, March 2013 (PDF, 277 pages, 2.615KB)