What is a family? What makes someone a parent? What rights should children have? Family Law: A Very Short Introduction gives the reader an insight not only into what the law is, but why it is the way it is. It examines how laws have had to respond to social changes in family life, from rapidly rising divorce rates to surrogate mothers, and gives insight into family courts which are required to deal with the chaos of family life and often struggle to keepup-to-date with the social and scientific changes which affect it. It also looks to the future: what will families look like in the years ahead? What new dilemmas will the courts face?ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
We are used to thinking that most people have the capacity to make their own decisions; that they should be free to decide how to live their lives; and that it is a good thing to be self-sufficient. However, in an examination of the legal position of vulnerable adults, understood as those who have capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 but are deemed impaired through vulnerability in their exercise of decision making powers, Jonathan Herring challenges that
assumption. Drawing on feminist and disability perspectives he argues that we are all in fact, 'vulnerable' and we need to replace the competent, able-bodied, independent person as the norm which the law is based on and instead fashion which recognises our interdependence and mutuality.
At the heart of the law is a distinction between those who have capacity and those who do not. Those who have capacity are given the full rights of the law; they are entitled to enter contracts, dispose of their property, are able to marry. Those who are deemed to lack capacity are unable to make these decisions. Their decisions are made on their behalf based on an assessment of what is in their best interests. This approach is underpinned by the principle of autonomy, and is problematic for
those who are deemed 'vulnerable'. The Court of Protection and the Court of Appeal have developed a jurisdiction to deal with cases involving vulnerable adults which has been used in a wide range of cases from those involving people with early stage dementia to cases of forced marriage. This
development of law has proved controversial and the courts have struggled to draw its limits and explain the justification for it.
Jonathan Herring welcomes the courts willingness to protect vulnerable adults through the inherent jurisdiction, but argues that we need to go much further. It is not just particular groups such as 'the elderly' or 'the disabled' who are vulnerable, but rather vulnerability is part of the human condition. This means that caring relationships are of central significance to our society and should be at the heart of the legal system.
This book will challenge the orthodox view that children cannot have the same rights as adults because they are particularly vulnerable. It will argue that we should treat adults and children in the same way as the child liberationists claim. However, the basis of that claim is not that children are more competent than we traditionally given them credit for, but rather that adults are far less competent than we give them credit for.
It is commonly assumed that children are more vulnerable. That is why we need to have a special legal regime for children. Children cannot have all the same rights as adults and need especial protect from harms. While in the 1970s "child liberationists" mounted a sustained challenge to this image, arguing that childhood was a form of slavery and that the assumption that children lacked capacity was unsustainable. This movement has significantly fallen out of favour, particularly given increasing awareness of child abuse and the multiple ways that children can be harmed at the hands of adults.
This book will explore the concept of vulnerability, the way it used to undermine the interests of children and our assumptions that adults are not vulnerable in the same way that children are. It will argue that a law based around mutual vulnerability can provide an approach which avoids the need to distinguish adults and children.