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Divorce and Separation: New models of professional practice to support parents

  • Seminar 6 of the ESRC International Reserach Seminar Serices (ESRC Award Ref: ES/L000792/1)
  • Date: 7th December 2015 - Coffee and registration 09.30 - 10.00. Seminar 10.00 - 16.30
  • Venue:The Nuffield Foundation, 28 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3JS 

Christine Skinner is centre

Photo: Dr Christine Skinner (University of York) and Ida Forster (Resolution) can be seen centre with their presentation - Family Matters: Guiding parents to resolution


Seminar outline


Divorce and separation can be an extremely difficult time for families. Many parents can be overwhelmed by a range of emotions and worries about the future. Supporting separated parents through this process and helping them focus on the needs of their children is challenging work for lawyers, mediators and social justice professionals working in this area. This is also a priority policy for the Government.

Photo: Plenary Panel Members from left to right are:

Front Row: Emeritus Professor Janet Walker OBE -University of Newcastle; Jo Edwards - Chair of Resolution; Jane Wilson - Resolution; Chris Sherwood - CEO Relate; Penny Mansfield CBE – Director One Plus One; Professor Lawrie Moloney - Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Back Row: Dr Christine Skinner – University of York and Ida Forster – Resolution.

The Department for Work and Pensions is seeking innovative solutions that will help parents reach agreements in the best interests of their children. To that end, it has invested £20 million in the ‘Help and Support for Separated Families’ fund (HSSF) which aims to test innovative service models and new developments in professional practice that help parents collaborate to reach agreements that are in the best interests of their children.

‌This high level policy seminar will open up debate among family justice professionals, scholars and policy makers about how best to work with separated parents to help them produce positive outcomes for their children. Leading organisations and practitioners in the field will consider the evidence on the latest innovations and debate the future of professional practice. Presentations include:

‌• Resolution - Dr Christine Skinner (University of York) and Ida Forster (Resolution) ‘Family Matters: Guiding parents to resolution’
• Relate – CEO Chris Sherwood and Senior Policy Officer David Marjoribanks Navigating family relationship support: Joining up support before, during and after separation
• One Plus One - Director Penny Mansfield (Title TBC)-
• Professor Lawrie Moloney - Australian Institute of Family Studies. Family Relationship Centres: a key and (mainly) successful part of Australia’s family law system.
• Plenary Panel Discussion ‘Future models of practice – Challenges and Opportunities’ led by the distinguished Emeritus Professor Janet Walker OBE, Newcastle University.

Family Matters - an innovative support service from Resolution

This report was launched at the seminar. Report (PDF , 768kb)


Resolution developed an innovative new service called Family Matters. It aimed to help separated parents collaborate more effectively in the best interests of their children and involved the services of a new type of practitioner – a ‘Family Matters Guide’. Family Matters Guides are highly trained professional lawyers or mediators who combine their legal know-how and conflict resolution skills. The Family Matters service operated in specific cities in three areas in England, with two Family Matters Guides in each area. Free to users, it was targeted at low income families. It was hosted by local law firms whose staff were active members of Resolution. The main aim of the study was to understand Guides’ experience of delivering this innovative service and consider the implications for future professional practice in the field of family dispute resolution.

ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council

Nuffield Foundation




Family Matters report

Download here:

Report (PDF , 768kb)