Family Disputes in Times of Austerity: The Growth of Family and Children Legal Disputes in Portugal

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Paula CASALEIRO, Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra, Portugal
Andreia SANTOS, Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra, Portugal
In the beginning of the 21st century, in Portugal, there is the deepening of family transformations and, simultaneously, an economic and financial crisis, followed by austerity measures. On the one hand, there is an increasing fragility of family relationships, with the increase in divorces and separations and subsequent regulation (extrajudicial and judicial) of parental responsibilities. The family of the second modernity translates, in general terms, a deepening of individualization process, which have begun in the late nineteenth century, and the transformation of family ties with a growing valorization of love in family relationships, as well as privacy and independence family life (Beck, 2005; Singly, 2011).

On the other hand, the economic and financial crisis and austerity policies in Portugal contributed to the increase of unemployment, particularly unprotected unemployment, and underemployment situations. The “society of austerity” (Ferreira, 2012) is perceived as a generator of income inequalities through the exclusion of the labor market and of the social protection system (Carmo and Cantante, 2014). This implies a sharp impoverishment of the material and subjective conditions of individuals and families (idem).

In this communication we argue that this context of crisis and austerity contributes directly and indirectly to the increase of family disputes in the Portuguese family and children courts: namely it increases the judicial mobilization to solve child support payments disputes (reduction of the value and failure to pay) and to regulate parental responsibilities, in order to access social protection mechanisms. We will also analyze the responses of the Portuguese family and children courts to this family disputes, seeking to realize to what extent the judicial decisions may contribute or not to deepen the consequences of the crisis on families and to the feminization of poverty.