Configuration(s) of unpaid caregiving within current legal discourse in and around the family.
Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Queen's University of Belfast: School of Law
Using a feminist critique, this article explores the sliding scale of value attributed by law to unpaid caregiving in the (heterosexual) family context. Whereas in private family law, recent decisions have radically changed the direction of this discourse and placed a very high value on such a contribution to family life where it occurs in the married context, the same kind of caregiving activity is attributed afar diminished value within cohabitation law whilst, when sited within statedependent single parenthood, its value becomes at best nonexistent or even negative, with paid work assumed to be the carer's ultimate goal. This article considers some issues arising from this evolving legal framework from the perspective of gender relations. What are the implications from an equality-seeking perspective only valuing caregiving highly in dependent patriarchalr elationships,p articularlyi n a society that continues to retreat from the welfare state? Might greater participation of men in unpaid caregiving remove obstacles inherent in the gendered nature of the debate and permit a more positive reconfiguration of the discourse surrounding it? What effect might the extension of the law of financial relief to civil partners have on the discourse from an equality perspective?
© Queen's University of Belfast: School of Law.
Vol. 58, Issue 3, pp. 251 - 267