Siblings, contact and the law: an overlooked relationship?

This is the first study about siblings and the law in England and Wales. It draws on research emerging from a number of disciplines that has highlighted: the importance of siblings for children’s development, wellbeing and identity; the shifting nature of ‘siblinghood’ in family and kinship structures; the diversity of types and definitions of siblings; and, the effects of the separation of child siblings in the public care system. While it is an established principle that siblings should be placed together, where it is in their ‘best interests’, in practice siblings are frequently separated, resulting in children having to manage life-long issues of attachment, identity and loss.

The primary aim of the project is to fill a knowledge gap and enhance engagement with key stakeholders working in family justice about contact between siblings in public law proceedings, an issue that affects an increasing number of vulnerable children. By identifying the impact of the shifting legal framework and practitioner and expert assumptions about siblings underpinning current legal decision-making, it aims to provide a firm foundation for developing new materials to guide policy, and promote reflexive practice. And in establishing a new research agenda in law about an overlooked issue, it will provide a firm foundation for identifying further questions for research and policy reform.

The research will involve a mapping review of the law, cases and socio-legal research about child siblings and contact and interviews with members of the judiciary, legal practitioners and guardians. Guided by a Young People’s Participation Group the study will at all stages involve and be informed by the views and perspectives of young people.

Grant Details



Professor Daniel Monk, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London

Dr Jan Macvarish

Grant Amount and Duration


April 2017 - November 2018