The Street-Level Response to Relationship Breakdown: A Lesson for National Policy?
In January 2001, the Government announced its intention to repeal the divorce reforms contained in the Family Law Act 1996. The 'story' of the Act is largely one of compromise: between a backward-looking idealism, casting divorce law in the role of supporting marriage, and a more forward-facing pragmatism, accepting the necessity of engaging with social reality. The result was legislation that sought both to save and end marriages - although a key reason for proposing the Act's repeal was an alleged failure to save marriages. This national approach to relationship breakdown contrasts sharply with that at 'street-level', where work aims to provide a service catering to the diversity of modern family life. The apparent success of this approach prompts the question of whether there are lessons for national policy. Drawing on a series of interviews with national policy-makers and street-level workers, this paper compares national and local perspectives and suggests that a new mind-set and approach, akin to that operating on the ground, is needed at national level if workable divorce law reform is to be achieved.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 March 2004