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Lone Parents and Civil Law: Their Experience of Problems and Their Advice-seeking Behaviour

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Abstract

The percentage of dependent children living in lone-parent families has more than tripled in Britain over the last 30 years. Though there is much diversity within this lone-parent population, there are common experiences and characteristics. Lone-parent families tend to be headed by women, to be poor, on benefits and experience problems with ill health and disability. This paper examines lone parenthood in the context of the experience of justiciable problems (problems for which there is a potential legal remedy), drawing upon a large-scale survey of 5,611 people representative of the population of England and Wales. The survey included 223 lone parents, who were likely to be female, to be living in rented accommodation, to be on a low income, to be economically inactive and to be in receipt of benefits. Lone parents were significantly more likely than others to have experienced a justiciable problem. Lone parents sought advice for their problems more often than others, particularly from solicitors, even after controlling for problems experienced. Lone parents were more likely than others to receive legal-aid funding. Lastly, lone parents found trying to resolve problems particularly stressful, though they tended to believe that their life had improved as a consequence of doing so.
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Keywords: Advice-seeking; Justiciable problems; Lone-parent families; Poverty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Legal Services Research Centre, London, UK

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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