Photo of Professor Anne Barlow (FAcSS)

Professor Anne Barlow (FAcSS)

Professor of Family Law and Policy: Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Transfer


01392 723159

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Anne Barlow joined Exeter Law School in 2004 from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and previously practised as a solicitor in London.  She is a Law with French graduate of Sussex University and has also studied at the College of Law, London and the University of Strasbourg. 

Anne has a particular interest in Family Law and Policy, especially the regulation of adult relationships such as cohabitation and marriage, but has also taught and researched in the areas of comparative law, housing law and welfare law and policy.  She is a member of the Working Group of the EU-funded project Empowering European Families based at the European Law Institute in Vienna, looking at ways to resolve the complex legal position of 'international couples'  within the EU when relationships break down or one partner dies.

Anne has held a number of research grants awarded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ESRC, Ministry of Justice and the Nuffield Foundation. She recently led a 3 year interdisciplinary study (2011-2014) funded by the ESRC on Mapping Paths to Family Justice, looking at Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution of private family law issues. This was followed by an ESRC Impact Accelerator Award, Creating Paths to Family Justice where she worked with a number of agencies including OnePlusOne, Relate, the Ministry of Justice, the Family Mediation Council, Resolution and CAFCASS to draw on research findings to develop online and offline mediation services for couples and children.

Anne also leads the inter-disciplinary Network on Family, Regulation and Society and the Leverhulme International Network on New Families; New Governance.  Together with colleagues from Bath, Bristol and Cardiff Universities and partner voluntary agencies engaged in family research, the two Networks bring together top international and UK researchers to debate research questions critical to the future of family law and policy.  Network members were recently awarded  GW4 Accelerator funds to develop appropriate methods to investigate the new and unexplored 'delegalised space' in which disputes on relationship breakdown are now attempted, online and offline, in England and Wales, following the withdrawal of legal aid and the encouragement of private settlement.

External Positions, Appointments and Honours

  • Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS), 2013
  • Member of the ESRC Grants Assessment Panel B, 2010 - 2014
  • Appointed as Academic Member of the Family Justice Council, 2011 - 2015
  • Vice-Chair of the Socio-Legal Studies Association, 2011 - 2014
  • Appointed member of the Government Family Mediation Task Force (2014)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


Research group links

Research interests

Anne's research interests have focused on regulation of adult relationships - such as cohabitation and marriage - both in England and Wales and comparatively with other jurisdictions.  Whilst maintaining her interest in how best to regulate different styles of family in the face of changing social norms, she is also interested in the changing family justice landscape.  In particular, she has looked at the shift towards out-of-court Family Dipsute Resolution, considering how this affects our understandings of family justice .

She has directed a number of socio-legal research projectson different aspects of family, law and policy.

Research Grants held

April 2017 - March 2022

Anne Barlow is a co-investigator in an exciting interdisciplinary team led by Professor Mark Jackson for the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. This is is a new, world-leading research centre dedicated to providing innovative approaches to enabling health and well-being across the life course. Combining expertise from humanities and social sciences, together with natural, medical and environmental sciences, the Centre will provide a unique opportunity to work together to address health challenges facing socially and culturally diverse populations. Anne's role will involve looking at transitions across the life course, including into and out of relationships, and effects of these and related legal processes on mental health and wellbeing.

November 2015 - November 2016

Anne Barlow was awarded and ESRC Impact Accelearator Account Award of £20,000 for the Creating Paths to Family Justice project which aimed to develop 'real world' impact from the Mapping Paths to Family Justice project on out of court  family dispute resolution concluded in 2014.  Working with Exeter academic colleagues Janet Smithson, and Jan Ewing and Rosemary Hunter (Queen Mary University, London), the project collaborated with partner agencies Relate, Ministry of Justice, Department for Work and Pensions, Family Mediation Council, Resolution and CAFCASS to draw on research findings to develop online and offline family mediation and information services.

March 2012 - August 2015

Anne Barlow and Liz Trinder with colleagues from the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Cardiff were awarded £140,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to lead the International Network on New Families; New Governance to explore the changing relationship between families and the state in Britain, Europe, the USA and Australia alsongside international partners at the Universites of Notre Dame, USA, Melbourne, Australia and the Free University of Amsterdam. 

July 2011 - March 2015

Anne Barlow, Rosemary Hunter (Kent Law School) and Janet Smithson were awarded £500,000 by the ESRC for their project Mapping Paths to Family Justice.  This interdisciplinary project aims to provide critical evidence about the usage, experience and outcomes of the three different forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution in family law currently available in the UK - Solicitor Negotiation, Mediation and Collaborative Law - at a time when these alternatives to court are likely to become increasingly used.  Following publication of the project's key findings in June 2014, the ESRC agreed to extend the term of the project to work with partners One Plus One to develop an online tool to help assess a couple's 'emotional readiness' to deal with issues on relationship breakdown. Lack of emotional readiness for dispute resolution by one party was identified in the research findings as a key reason why out of court dispute resolution was likely to fail.

April 2010 - April 2011

Anne Barlow and colleague Janet Smithson were awarded £104,000 by the Nuffield Foundation to 'Explore Perceptions of Pre-Nuptial Agreements' and will consider public attitudes and psychological considerations of the possible introduction of binding pre-nuptial agreements in English Family Law, which is currently under consideration by the Law Commission.

January 2010 - April 2010

Anne Barlow and colleague Liz Trinder were awarded funding of £18,000 jointly from the ESRC, AHRC and the Nuffield Foundation to lead the development phase of an inter-disciplinary Research Centre on Family, Regulation and Society to be based in the South West.  Together with colleagues from Bath, Bristol and Cardiff Universities and partner voluntary agencies engaged in family research, they hosted a 2-day international workshop in London in March 2010 which brought together top international and UK researchers to debate research questions critical to the future of family law and policy.

January 2006 - July 2009

Anne Barlow and Carole Burgoyne were awarded £106,000 by the Nuffield Foundation to update research on the so-called 'Common Law Marriage Myth' and Cohabitation Law Reform.

In 2009 this research led to a public lecture and debate by members of the Peninsula Family Justice Council about solicitor opportunities to advise and raise the legal awareness of cohabitants.

March 2006 – June 2008

Awarded £41,553.31 as co-director (with Carole Burgoyne and Stefanie Sonnenberg, University of Exeter) by the ESRC to investigate Financial Management Practices in Non-Traditional Heterosexual Couples.

January 2006 - September 2006

With Carole Burgoyne, Anne Barlow was awarded funding of £15,000 to direct a project evaluating the impact of the government funded Living Together Campaign on the legal awareness of cohabitants for the Ministry of Justice.  Their report is available at

October 2004 - July 2006 awarded with Elizabeth Cooke and Therese Callus at Reading University £93,000 as co-director of a research grant from the Nuffield Foundation exploring Community of Property as a Regime for England and Wales. In view of the increasing Europeanisation of Family law, this project will involve doctrinal and empirical research looking at the community of property regimes which automatically apply on marriage or civil partnership registration in France, Sweden, the Netherlands as compared with the system of separate property in England and Wales and consider any need for reform. See further -

January 2000 - July 2002 awarded £93,000 as principal director of a major research grant from the Nuffield Foundation examining Family restructuring, the Common Law marriage myth and the need for legal realism. This comprised a national survey (undertaken as part of the British Social Attitudes Survey) examining attitudes to marriage and cohabitation and their respective legal consequences and was followed by a two-stage qualitative in-depth study, in which the reasons behind such attitudes and legal misconceptions were explored and compared.

October 1991- £60,000 awarded over 24 months by Joseph Rowntree Foundation to examine \'The Effectiveness of the Agricultural Tied Housing Legislation in the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 and Housing Act 1988\'. The project was co-directed with Paul Cloke and Mark Goodwin of Department of Geography, St David\'s University College, Lampeter.

Research supervision

Anne Barlow welcomes applications from research students in any area of Family Law and Policy, but particularly in areas concerning adult relationships and their legal consequences.

Research students

Anne Barlow has recently supervised the following PhD students

Chung-Yang Chen - Bridging Cultures and Traditions in the Reconceptualisation of the Value of Non-Financial Contributions to the Marriage relationship, awarded 2011. Chung-Yang is now Assistant Professor in Law, Shcool of Law, Sooochow (Dung-Wu) University, Taipei, Taiwan

Philip Bremner - Platonic Parents: A Comparative Study of the Legal Response to Co-Parenting in Canada and the UK, awarded 2016 (ESRC studentship).  Philip is now a lecturer at the University of Sussex.

Gisela Grabbow - EU advancement to the detriment of the best interest of the child?- The rules on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement in Brussels II bis and jurisdiction, recognition, enforcement and applicable law in the traditional Hague Conventions, awarded 2017.  Gisela is now a practising lawyer in Germany.

Anne currently supervises the following PhD students -

Anna Heenan - The financial implications of the shift to post-separation shared parenting (ESRC studentship).

Helen Eke - What is the current state of transtion services in the UK and is this meeting the welfare needs of children and adolescents? (jointly supervised with University of Exeter Medical School Colleagues)


External impact and engagement

Anne Barlow's research on family law and policy issues aims to have impact beyond the academic community as well as in the field of family law scholarship. Her role as the academic member of the Family Justice Council ensures that she is engaged with family policy makers, the judiciary and the legal profession in this field.

Her research on cohabitation and marriage was selected as one of the Law School's Impact Case Studies in the REF 2014, where academics demonstrate the way their research has had influence beyond academia.  In particular, her research findings on attitudes to cohabitation, marriage and the law (funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Ministry of Justice) led to a Private Member's Cohabitation Bill by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester as well as influencing the Law Commission and judiciary in the UK and informing German Policy Makers.   

Most recently, she was awarded an ESRC Impact Accelerator Account Award Creating Paths to Family Justice to work with Relate, the Ministry of Justice, Family Mediation Council, Resolution, One Plus One and CAFCASS to develop online and offline mediation services drawing on her ESRC-funded  research on Mapping Paths to Family Justice which looked at different styles of alternative or out of court family dispute resolution (AFDR).  This aimed to map which styles of AFDR suit which parties and cases.  This research has contributed to the work and report of the government's Family Mediation Task Force, chaired by David Norgrove, and of which she was a member.  The research has also led to a great deal of interest among the legal and mediation professions who are keen to act on the best practice recommendations of the research findings.  

In September 2014, she was invited to speak about the project's research findings a the annual conference of the Family Mediators' Association, where she presented alongside the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP and Penelope Leach.

She was also the invited Keynote Speaker at Resolution's Dispute Resolution Conference in October 2014 at which she spoke about the Challenges and Choices which her research revealed were facing the Family Dispute Resolution professions and which was well received by enthusiastic practitioner delegates keen to engage with the research. 

Other opportunities to engage with family professionals have since been offered.  In January 2015, following a post of the project's findings by Annmarie Carvalho of Farrer & Co for the benefit of a practitioner audience, she was invited to discuss her view of what the next steps should be following the research with an audience of family lawyers and mediators at an event organised at Farrer & Co in London.  Following this, in March 2015, she was invited to give a further presentation on the research to the London Family Mediation Group at Wedlake Bell LLP.

Anne Barlow and the Mapping Paths to Family Justice research team have also worked with One Plus One to develop an online tool to help couples assess their emotional readiness before embarking upon Family Dispute Resolution as part of an educational programme aimed at separating couples.  One key finding of the Mapping Paths to Family Justice project was that mediation, in particular, was unlikely to be successful unless both parties were 'emotionally ready' to engage with mediation following separation, as it is common for one partner to have accepted the breakdown of the relationship more than the other in emotional terms. 


Anne Barlow joined Exeter Law School in 2004 from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and previously practised as a solicitor in London.  She is a Law with French graduate of Sussex University and has also studied at the College of Law, London and the University of Strasbourg.