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Robert H. George, Lecturer and Tutor in Law, Jesus College, Oxford. This article reports the views of 15 practitioners in England and France on the way they understand and apply the best interests principle in private law children's cases. Based on qualitative interviews, the research examines how lawyers and social workers define a child's best interests, and how they put these definitions into practice in three particular factual situations.
Even within countries, the best interests principle is open to a degree of interpretation. English academics describe best interests as 'notoriously indeterminate', 'ambiguous and unstable', as having 'no rules or even principles', and as lacking rationality. Similarly, in France, where the term is l'intérêt de l'enfant, commentators consider it to be 'a notion which is as essential as it is obscure', the application of which is 'mysterious' and whose 'imprecision opens it up to all interpretations of what constitutes the interests of the child'.
Given the increasingly international relevance of family law, it is important to ask whether concepts which appear to be used internationally are in fact uniformly understood and applied. Does the best interests principle constitute an 'international currency'? For the full article see Child and Family Law Quarterly, Vol 19, No 3, 2007.
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