‘Giving Hope to Fathers’: Discursive Constructions of Families and Family Law by Mckenzie Friends Associated With Fathers’ Rights Groups

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    Abstract

    A McKenzie Friend is a lay person who provides assistance to a self-representing litigant (SRL) in court. Traditionally, McKenzie Friends have been friends, family members or occasionally charities that have provided assistance free of charge. In England and Wales, there is anecdotal evidence that there has been a significant increase in the number of McKenzie Friends supporting SRLs, and, as their numbers have increased, their role has changed. Many are now paid 'professionals' who offer a range of legal services. These 'professional' McKenzie Friends usually act in family law matters, and some are associated with fathers' rights groups (FRGs). This article analyses the social media presence of McKenzie Friends associated with FRGs, including how they construct the services they offer and the family law system in which they operate. It shows that many McKenzie Friends associated with FRGs assert that fathers are victims of gender bias in the family justice system, lawyers are unaffordable, untrustworthy, and excessively adversarial, and only McKenzie Friends can produce the outcomes wanted by fathers. While most of their websites support simplistic and decontextualized concepts of 'formal equality', other forms of social media, such as Facebook sites and blogs, often explicitly construct family law issues in misogynist terms. Thus, it is argued that McKenzie Friends associated with FRGs promote powerful social myths that support gender inequality and violence against women, and deny children's rights.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147-173
    Number of pages27
    JournalInternational Journal of Law, Policy and The Family
    Volume31
    Issue number2
    Early online date2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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