Heteronormativity in dissolution proceedings: exploring the impact of recourse to legal advice in same sex relationship breakdown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Colleges, School and Institutes


This chapter explores how heteronormativity, normative ordering of society to correspond with heterosexuality, shapes experiences of dissolution of formally recognized same-sex relationships. We present qualitative data from in-depth interviews with both clients and solicitors with direct experience of civil partnership dissolution. Drawing on insights from legal-consciousness studies, we explore the extent to which legal intervention in relationship breakdown creates an arena of strategy and self-interest. Overall, these data demonstrate the ways in which ‘law’ is conceived of as a product of its actors, rather than as being an entity of ‘the state’. We show that heteronormative understandings of gender roles in relationships have been carried over from (different-sex) marriage into civil-partnership proceedings. We argue that lesbians and gay men retain a level of resistance to this legal heteronormativity that has the potential to have transformative effects on contemporary understandings of the place of gender in marriage.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophical foundations of children’s and family law
EditorsElizabeth Brake, Lucinda Ferguson
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2018


  • heteronormativity, civil partnership dissolution, same-sex marriage, same-sex divorce, legal consciousness, gender roles, LGBT