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Dr Leanne Smith

Associate Professor


01392 724975


Leanne Smith is a family law researcher with particular interests in parenting disputes, access to family justice and effective family dispute resolution. She has participated in and led empirical studies on litigants in person in the family courts, Shared Parenting Information Programmes (‘SPIPs’) and the use of lay advisors (‘McKenzie Friends’) as substitutes for professional legal advice and representation in family cases.  

Leanne’s current work focuses on building an evidence-base for the use of different resources (e.g. public legal education and self-help resources; post-separation parenting apps) to improve understanding of family justice and support family dispute resolution. She is exploring how people use peer support in online communities to help them navigate family disputes, as well as the mechanisms through which information and advice about solving family disputes can be made useful and accessible. 

The later strands of Leanne’s work are in part influenced by her strong interest in designing effective learning activities. In her teaching this manifests in diverse learning activities and authentic assessment briefs. Her students are exposed to diverse ways of acquiring and communicating knowledge and encouraged to consider how law is understood and experienced by different audiences. Leanne has been shortlisted for the prestigious Oxford University Press Law Teacher of the Year award and also won Cardiff University’s ‘Most Effective Teacher’ award in 2014. 

Leanne is a founding member of the interdisciplinary Network on Family, Regulation and Society, which has brought together top international and UK researchers to debate research questions critical to the future of family law and policy. She is a member of the advisory board of the Journal of Law and Society and has served on the editorial board of that journal and of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. Before leaving Wales to take up her post at Exeter Law School in 2019, Leanne also served for many years as a trustee for Family Mediation Cymru.

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2014 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2006 |


  • Smith L. (2019) Representations of family justice in online communities, Digital Family Justice From Alternative Dispute Resolution to Online Dispute Resolution?, Hart Publishing.



  • Smith L, Hitchings E, Sefton M. (2017) Fee-charging McKenzie Friends in private family law cases: key findings from the research report, Family Law, volume 47, pages 971-977.
  • Smith L, Hitchings E, Sefton M. (2017) A study of fee-charging McKenzie Friends and their work in private family law cases, The Bar Council, The Bar Council.


  • Masson J, Smith L. (2014) New Families – New Governance: Voices Heard and Unheard (Special Issue), Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, volume 63, no. 4, pages 355-437.
  • Trinder E, Bryson C, Coleman L, Houlston C, Purdon S, Reibstein J, Smith L, Stoilova M. (2014) Evaluation of the Separated Parent Information Programme (SPIP Plus) Pilot, Department for Education and Cafcass, Department for Education.
  • Trinder L, Hunter R, Hitchings E, Miles J, Smith L, Moorhead R, Sefton M, Hinchly V, Pearce J, Bader K. (2014) Litigants in Person in Private Family Law Cases, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 228 pages. [PDF]


  • Smith LJ, Trinder EJ. (2012) Mind the gap: parent education programmes and the family justice system, Child and Family Law Quarterly, volume 24, no. 4.


  • Smith L. (2011) T v T (Shared Residence) [2010] EWCA Civ 1366, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, volume 33, no. 2, pages 175-179, DOI:10.1080/09649069.2011.617075. [PDF]
  • Smith L, Bryson C, Coleman L, Houlston C, Purdon S, Reibstein J. (2011) The Separated Parent Information Programme (Pip): Current Effectiveness and Future Potential, Family Law, volume 41, no. September, pages 998-1002.
  • Bryson C, Coleman L, Houlston C, Purdon S, Reibstein J, Smith L. (2011) Building bridges? An evaluation of the costs and effectiveness of the Separated Parents Information Programme (PIP), Department for Education, 132 pages. [PDF]


  • Smith L. (2010) Re G (Children) (Residence: Same‐sex Partner) [2006] UKHL 43, [2006] 1 WLR 2305, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, volume 29, no. 3-4, pages 307-317, DOI:10.1080/09649060701752349.
  • Smith L. (2010) Clashing symbols? Reconciling support for fathers and fatherless families after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, Child and Family Law Quarterly, volume 22(1), pages 46-70.


  • Smith L. (2006) Principle or pragmatism? Lesbian parenting, shared residence and parental responsibility after Re G (Residence :Same-Sex Partner), Child and Family Law Quarterly, volume 18(1), pages 125-137.
  • Smith L. (2006) Is three a crowd? Lesbian mothers' perspectives on parental status in law, Child and Family Law Quarterly, volume 18(2), no. 18(2), pages 231-252.

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