Skip to main content


Photo of Professor Anne Barlow (FAcSS)

Professor Anne Barlow (FAcSS)

Professor of Family Law and Policy, Director of Research


01392 723159

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, France. 

She has a particular interest in Family Law and Policy, especially the regulation of adult relationships such as cohabitation, marriage and civil partnership, as well as in out-of-court family dispute resolution and access to family justice. She has also taught and researched in the areas of comparative law, housing law and welfare law and policy. 

Much of Anne's research has been interdisciplinary. She leads the Network on Family, Regulation and Society and is one of the interdisciplinary team awarded Wellcome Trust funding to work together as the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

Anne has held a number of research grants awarded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ESRC, Ministry of Justice and the Nuffield Foundation. She 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 3 phases of ESRC Impact Accelerator Awards, 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 and information for couples and children.

Anne also led the inter-disciplinary Network on Family, Regulation and Society in its work as 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.  

She was 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, resulting in new guidance and toolkits for couples.

External Positions, Appointments and Honours

  • Member of the  REF 2021 Law Sub-Panel  (Ouptut Assessor)
  • 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

University of Exeter Appointments 

At Exeter,  Anne is currently the Law School's Director of Research and Impact. She was Head of the Law School from 2008-2010 and was appointed as Associate Dean for Research for the College of Social Sciences and International Study from 2013-2020. 

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. Anne has also recently worked with colleagues on the Shackleton Relationships Project in looking at  what makes relationships thrive and the role of Relationship Education in schools in building healthy, happy sustainable couple relationships.

She has directed a number of socio-legal research projectson different aspects of family, law and policy and is currently working with Dr Jan Ewing and colleagues in the College of Medicine and Health and Exeter on links between mental health in young people and relationship transitions (both their own and those of their parents), with the aim of helping them able to deal well with these and any issues and processes which arise. 

Research Grants held

April 2017 - March 2024

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 involves 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 - March 2019

Anne Barlow was awarded 3 phases of ESRC Impact Accelearator Account Award funding of £39,000 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. Video resources for couples and practitioners about best practice and who is and is not suited to family mediation have also been co-created by the collaboration of academics and stakeholders.

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.  

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.

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, School 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 senior lecturer in Law at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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 2017Gisela is now a practising lawyer in Germany.

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). Awarded 2019. Helen is a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Medicine and Health at The University of Exeter.

Anna Heenan - Equal sharing and unequal caring? How should family Law and policy take account of caretaking responsibilities on parental separation?awarded 2020 (ESRC studentship). Anna is now a lecturer at The University of Cambridge University.

Anne currently supervises the following PhD students -

Donna Crowe-UrbaniakVulnerability, autonomy, power, and resilience: a socio-legal examination of the issues faced by military wives post-LASPO. Awarded ESRC +3 studentship , September 2017.

Zaina Mamoud - Surrogates across the Atlantic: comparing legal and health regulatory frameworks on surrogates' autonomy, health and wellbeing. Awarded PhD studentship by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, September 2018. 

Sara McIlroyBeyond making people lawyers and getting people lawyers: Examining procedures of family justice for litigants in person. Commenced September 2019.

Rebecca MundayDoes the Gender Reassignment protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 reflect on and offer protection to the identities of the non-binary community? Awarded ESRC +3 studentship , September 2021. 



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 earlier role as the academic member of the Family Justice Council has ensured that she is engaged with family policy makers, the judiciary and the legal profession in this field.

Anne has recently updated her study on cohabitation and marriage which 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, in 2019, funded by the ESRC and in conjuction with the National Centre for Social Research, she has explored further research questions on attitudes to equal civil partnership  as well as re-running her questions on the common law marriage myth as part of the British Social Attitudes Survey to add to her research findings on attitudes to cohabitation, marriage and the law (funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Ministry of Justice). This has influenced debates in Parliament on both issues and been of interest to the Scottish Law Commission who are looking to reform cohabitaiton law.   

Research and findings from the interdisciplinary Shackleton Relationships Project, has most recently led to Anne and co-researcher Dr Jan Ewing, to develop lesson plans and an animated video for use by teachers in the new Relationship Education curriculum. This has been kite-marked by the PSHE Association and advertised to teachers nationally as an excellent free resource. The lessons were co-developed with local school students and aim to help classes consider what attributes and skills are needed to help relationships to work well.

Other collaboration following 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 aimed to consider how to promote best practice in 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 have been acting on the best practice recommendations of the research findings.  

In September 2014 and again in September 2020 she was invited to speak about the project's research findings a the annual conference of the Family Mediators' Association, where in 2014 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. Her research interests focus on the regulation of adult relationships and also on out of court family dispute resolution. She has undertaken a number of funded empirical research studies on cohabitation, family property and out of court disput resolution. Her research aims to have impact on law and policy where research evidence indicates that this is appropriate. She s a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

 Edit profile