Plans, Protections, and Professional Intervention: Innovations in Divorce Custody Reform and the Role of Legal Professionals

Beginning with an overview of the “law in theory” in Part II, this Article describes the Parenting Act’s political origins and the aspirations on which the Act was based. These aspirations reflect common contemporary national themes and are based on common (and often unexamined) assumptions about the purposes of custody law and, indeed, the nature and capacity of law itself. They are described in conjunction with major theoretical arguments about custody reform. Part II then sets out the specific regulations embodying the drafters’ goals. The Article next looks at this ambitious new “law in practice” in Part III. It describes the ways in which the law was communicated to and received by family law professionals and the practical, ethical, and attitudinal barriers these regulations encountered-especially from counsel and courts-in the new law’s first year of implementation. This Part describes the significant role legal professionals play in shaping or resisting this implementation process. It also examines the written arrangements made by parents in a sample of approximately three hundred cases. In addition, this section compares this information, whenever possible, to empirical findings from other jurisdictions. Finally, Part IV of this Article discusses the implications of the insights gleaned from this study.