About Us
Denise Whitehead
Denise Whitehead
Associate Professor
Department of Sexuality, Marriage, & Family Studies

Cross appointment to the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies


Chair, Department of Sexuality, Marriage & Family Studies


PhD, University of Guelph
MSc, University of Guelph
Member of the Law Society of Ontario
JD, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
BA, University of Western Ontario

Certified Family Life Educator (NCFR)




SH 2217
Image of Dr. Denise Whitehead

I am an Associate Professor in Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies, cross appointed in Sociology and Legal Studies at St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo. I attended Osgoode Hall Law School (JD) and I am a member of the Bar of Ontario. I also have a MSc and PhD in Family Relations and Human Development (University of Guelph). I was a long serving research associate with the former Centre for Families, Work and Well-being at the University of Guelph, where I also completed my post-doctoral research fellowship. I am a Certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations.


My research encompasses interdisciplinary socio-legal research and policy analysis on family law matters including publicly funded mediation (Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Mediation Services in Ontario funded by AFCC-O), the shared custody of children, child support, fathering after separation and divorce, and caregiving for individuals with episodic disabilities. I have been at the forefront of research that has sought to understand the child's perspective of shared custody and am regularly invited to speak to judges and family law professionals.


Here is an interview with me hosted by KW lawyer Diane McInnis for her series on Families: Future-Present on how children feel about shared custody. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPDwJNf92MQ


My teaching focuses on law, policy, and relationship and family formation and dissolution through a wide array of courses including: family law (Love and the Law), Family Policy and the Law, intimate relationships, parent and child relations, conflict in close relationships, and research methods.


I live in picturesque Stratford with my husband Mark and beloved cats, Penny and Pebbles. We are the proud parents of two young-adult daughters.


The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.



Whitehead, D. L. & Hunter, M. D. (April, 2018). Youth in Conflict with the Law, 4th Edition. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.


Korabik, K., Lero, D. S., & Whitehead, D. L. (Eds). (2008). The Handbook of Work-family Integration: Theories, Perspectives & Best Practices. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.



Whitehead, D. L. & Bala, N. (2012). The short end of the stick? Fatherhood in the wake of separation and divorce. In J. Ball & K. Daly (Eds.), Father Involvement in Canada: Contested Terrain. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.


Whitehead, D. L. (2008). Historical trends in work-family: The evolution of earning and caring. In K. Korabik, D. S. Lero & D. L. Whitehead (Eds.), The handbook of work-family integration: Theories, perspectives & best practices (pp. 13-35). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.


Whitehead, D. L., Korabik, K. & Lero, D. S. (2008). Work-family integration: Introduction and overview. In K. Korabik, D. S. Lero & D. L. Whitehead (Eds.), The handbook of work-family integration: Theories, perspectives & best practices (pp. 3-11). San Diego, CA: Elsevier



Whitehead, D.L.& Birnbaum, R. (2020). Ontario’s publicly funded family mediation services: Exploring what influences uptake. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 39(2), 109-149

The full report for this research project: Family mediation: Exploring the benefits and challenges of publicly funded mediation services in Ontario (2019) is available on the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Ontario Chapter website: https://afccontario.ca/research-policy/recent-initiatives/


Whitehead, D. L. (2015). Is shared custody the ‘alchemy’ of family law? Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 35(1), 1-29.


Ashbourne, L. M., Whitehead, D. L., & Hawkins, L. (2013). Orienting services to separated/divorced fathers: A conceptual framework. Family Court Review, 51(4), 666-680.


Whitehead, D. L. (2010). Divorcing parenting from child support: Justice and care in the discourse of the rights and responsibilities of shared custody. Fathering: A Journal of Research, Theory & Practice, 8(2), 147-162.


Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (Ontario) (AFCCO) Research Grant (2017-2018)

St. Jerome’s University Faculty Research Grant (2017)

Ministry of Justice Canada, Family, Child & Youth Research Grant (2007-2008)            



Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Centre for Families Work and Well-being, University of Guelph (2013-2014)



H.H. Harshman Graduate Scholarship for research related to strengthening the family (2006)

Board of Graduate Studies Research Scholarships (2005; 2006)

University of Guelph Graduate Scholarships (2005; 2006)

Katherine M. Beck Memorial Doctoral Scholarship (2004)


SMF 101: Introduction to Relationships and Families

SMF 207: Parents, Children, and Family Relations

SMF 220: Research Methods

SMF 250: Family Policy and the Law

SMF 306: The Formation and Maintenance of Close Relationships

SMF 307: Conflict in Close Relationships

SMF 350: Love and the Law


I have Approved Doctoral Dissertation Status (ADDS) through the University of Waterloo


Family Law

Family Relations

Qualitative Research

Fathering/Mothering/Parenting After Separation

Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution

Work and Family

Parenting/Parent & Child Relations


The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.



Member of the Law Society of Ontario

Member, Association of Family & Conciliation Courts (AFCC) (including Ontario Chapter) (2009-present)

New Ways for Families Training (2017)

Member, Waterloo Region Law Association (2016-present)



St. Jerome's University

Chair, Department of Sexuality, Marriage & Family Studies (2022-present)

Treasurer, SJU Academic Staff Association (2022-present)

Acting Chair, Department of Sexuality, Marriage & Family Studies (2022)

Experiential Learning Advisory Committee (2021-present)

President's Working Group on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Phase 1 Committee (April 2020-December 2020)

Vice-President, Academic Staff Association (July 1, 2016-2019)


University of Waterloo

Representative on FAUW (Faculty Association University of Waterloo) (2016-2019)

Panel Member (Faculty Representative) for International Parents Orientation (2016)

Panel Member (Faculty/Parent Representative): Applied Health Science, Environment and Arts Faculty 101 Day program (2016)



Community Justice Initiatives (CJI), Waterloo – Member, Board of Directors (2017-2019)