Defending parenthood: A look at parents' legal argumentation in Norwegian care order appeal proceedings
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This paper examines parents' legal argumentation in 15 appealed care order (child removal) cases in one Norwegian district court, asking on what grounds parents appeal their case. I investigate the pragmatic, ethical, and moral bases in arguments by applying a discourse ethics framework, viewing argumentation as either justifications or excuses of the parenting in question. The analysis reveals complex reasons for appealing, displaying parents both justifying and excusing both specific situations and the totality of their parenthood. Parents primarily apply pragmatic and ethical adversarialism, followed by pragmatic blaming and claims of change, moral justifications about due process, and ethical excuses about age and own life histories. Interestingly, normalization emerges as a third strategy, where parents explicitly aim to widen the scope of parental normality and adequacy, challenging the common defense dichotomy. The study provides new insight into an important and sensitive field, and indicates that parents engage in similar concrete strategies when, most often unsuccessfully, defending their parenthood.