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14 U. Fla. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 137 (2002-2003)


I deeply wish to see more good empirical work in family law. If our system had all of the money in the world, I would wish to spend it to guarantee happy, healthy children. But since resources are scarce, and children's issues must compete with other interests that range from national security to care for the elderly, I would suggest spending a relatively modest amount to determine what programs would likely prove successful.

Usually public policy follows from the wishes of adults. In family law, this occurs although virtually all the legislation dealing with families and children begins with a "best interests of the child" premise. Most, if not all, of the litigated outcomes at least seem to maximize the results for adults. This should not be surprising, for both substantive and procedural reasons.

Though a case can be made for listening directly to what children want, the problem I identify comes from a disconnect between what legislators and courts do and what the outcomes of the policies or decisions are for children. I am not referring to whether the child is removed from the parent or whether there is an adoption from foster care. What I am concerned about is that the system does very little follow-up of its policies, even though these rules or structures may make tremendous differences to the children involved. As I have argued elsewhere, those studies that are conducted tend to have flaws that make them less useful than they could be.


Defending Childhood: Developing a Child-Centered Law & Policy Agenda

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Family Law Commons



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