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Stepfathers, Mothers' Cohabitants and 'Uncles'

Date:2 APR 2009

Professor Chris Barton Retired Family Law Teacher and a Vice-President of the Family Mediators Association

In late 2008 there was heavy interest in the Baby P case and in the trials arising from the Shannon Matthews disappearance. The coverage brought into sharp relief the uncertain terminology used and not just in the media to describe the various relationships which may exist between a woman's children and her new man. (This is hardly surprising given that unlike the 'descriptive' Sudanese system under which no two relatives share the same name we are even unsure what an aunt or a brother-in-law is.) The purpose of this article is to appraise the legalities of those connections and the suitability of their overlaps and differentials. For the avoidance of doubt 'stepfather' here means 'mother's husband' 'mother's cohabitant' means her resident ('live in') mate and 'uncle' her non-resident (or possibly lodging) lover. So both the first two men share households with their domestic partners and the latters' children from an earlier relationship. We will concentrate on them.

Of course some children have stepmothers fathers' cohabitants or 'aunties' instead...

Read the full article here.