'Ordinary Decent Domestic Violence': Judges' Narratives

'Ordinary Decent Domestic Violence': Judges' Narratives

A discursive analysis of family law judges’ interviews

 

The constitution ensures that the ‘best interest of the child’ is paramount in all adjudication pertaining to children. Identifying what is in an individual child’s best interest can be extremely complex particularly in contested child custody and access cases where there are also allegations of domestic violence. A first study in this area has  identified the psychological processes at play in the gap between  legistration (law on the books) and adjudications ( law in action). My current programme of research including a discourse analysis of interviews with District court judges, identifies how judges own values and beliefs might influence these decisions. In the context of an anonymous interview, judges idealise the nuclear family unit, seeing the presence of two parents as essential to child well-being. Judges normalise, minimise and sometimes even ignored abusive parent’s behaviour seeing it as irrelevant to child custody and access arraignments. On the other hand women who alleged domestic violence whilst disputing contact were often seen in very negative ways. It is recommended that systems be put in place, including judicial training, to facilitate judges in their decision-making process in this highly discretionary and complex area of the law.