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The role of sexual partnership in UK family law: the case of legal parenthood

McCandless, Julie (2012) The role of sexual partnership in UK family law: the case of legal parenthood. In: Cutas, Daniela and Chan, Sarah, (eds.) Families: Beyond the Nuclear Ideal. Science, ethics and innovation series. Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK, pp. 13-33. ISBN 9781780930107

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Identification Number: 10.5040/9781780930114


The question ‘What makes someone the parent of a child?’ is at once straightforward and complex. Straightforward because we often have what we feel to be a ‘common sense’ or ‘intuitive’ response. This might be with respect to individual parent-child relations – ‘Z and Y are X's parents’ – or it might relate to a more generalized normative standard – ‘the woman who gives birth to you is your mother’. However, if we collected a number of these ‘common sense’ or ‘intuitive’ responses, we are likely to find variation and contradictions within, signalling that our notions about parenthood are rather more complex than we might first envisage. In this chapter, I set about exploring this complexity through the lens of legal parenthood in the UK. It should be noted from the outset that I am not suggesting law to be somehow representative of how people understand parenthood: this is an empirical question far beyond the scope of this short chapter. Instead, what I am interested in are the various grounds upon which a person may be regarded as a legal parent at the moment of a child's birth in the UK. When we investigate this closely, we see that while these grounds have arguably shifted and expanded over recent decades, the notion that a child has two ‘real’ parents has remained constant. This is reflected in the strict two-parent model for legal parenthood (see also Lotz, this volume).

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Editors © CC BY-NC 3.0
Divisions: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2012 15:29
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 09:47

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