Edited by Henriette Sinding Aasen, Siri Gloppen, Anne-Mette Magnussen and Even Nilssen
Chapter 12: How legal professionals in the Netherlands and in Norway deal with cultural diversity (and how it affects social citizenship)
Although the court understands that the father wishes to be involved in the upbringing of his son, the interests of the child need to come first. In the best interests of [the child] the court finds it therefore paramount to end the power battle between the parties. (Unpublished Dutch court decision regarding child custody, authors’ translation) The quotation above derives from an unpublished Dutch legal decision on a conflict within a Dutch Egyptian family, which was a prime example of cases in which the legal outcome is straightforward, while the underlying social and cultural conflict is very complex. In this chapter, we do not consider either the legal details of the case or the intricacies of Dutch private international law. Instead, we wish to focus on the interactions between legal professionals and lay parties in family conflicts in which more than one law is claimed to be valid. Legal professionals in the field (not only lawyers and judges but also advisers of bodies such as youth care organizations or ministries) show sensitivity for non-dominant values and behavior in such situations. This chapter is based on the hypothesis that the communications of legal professionals have an important impact on the legal consciousness of the parties and thus contribute to the subjectively felt citizenship of lay people in today’s culturally diverse society (Hernández 2010).
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