Gender and Evidence in Family Law Reform: A Case Study of Quantification and Anecdote in Framing and Legitimising the ‘Problems’ with Child Support in Australia

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    Abstract

    Despite claims of ‘evidence based policy’, the place of empirical evidence in family law reform is ambiguous. There is ongoing socio-legal analysis of the differential value and uses of quantitative data and anecdote in detailing women’s experiences and advocating for change. In this paper, we engage with these issues through a focus on how data were constructed in a key government report, Every Picture Tells a Story, which was used to officially define the problem and outline recommendations in the controversial 2006-08 reform of the Australian Child Support Scheme. Our discussion focuses on two questions: what legitimacy is accorded to different kinds of evidence in family law reform processes?; and, how is this legitimacy gendered? We applied feminist critical discourse analysis to the type, source and claims of the data included in the child support chapter of the report. Our findings indicate that both quantitative data and anecdote were used to privilege fathers’ financial interests and autonomy; in contrast, women’s voices and interests were marginalised. Thus, we argue the legitimacy of data is ascribed through its relationship to the gendered definition of the ‘problems’ of child support, rather than the type of data per se.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147-167
    Number of pages21
    JournalFeminist Legal Studies
    Volume24
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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