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

Cross appointment to the Department of Sociology and Legal 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


SH 2217
Image of Dr. Denise Whitehead

I am an Assistant Professor in Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies at St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo. I attended Osgoode Hall Law School (JD) and am a member of the Bar of Ontario. I also have a PhD in Family Relations and Human Development (University of Guelph) and a long research association with the Centre for Families, Work and Well-being at the University of Guelph, where I also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship.

My work includes conducting interdisciplinary socio-legal research and policy analysis on family law matters including mediation, 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, family law professionals, and family law agency staff about my research.

I serve on the board of Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) for the Waterloo Region. This intersects with my interest in finding ways to help families find supports and services outside of traditional adversarial, court-based litigation.

In addition, I am a part of a steering committee that formed the KW-Guelph Community of Practice: Family Law & Family Conflict. This group is an interdisciplinary resource for professionals who serve families undergoing separation/divorce (e.g., therapists, lawyers, mediators, researchers, psychologists, social workers, etc.). You are welcome to sign up (for free) to receive our newsletter with updates about local training and events.

My current research project: Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Mediation Services in Ontario, is funded by the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts, Ontario (AFCC-O), a St. Jerome’s University Faculty Research Grant, and SHHRC. This project will seek to understand access and satisfaction with family mediation services (2017-2018).

As a teacher I focus on law, policy, relationships and family through a wide array of courses in areas such as family law, family policy, intimate relationships, parent and child relations, conflict in close relationships, and research methods.

I am a long-time resident of the Guelph/Kitchener area and live with my husband Mark, two young-adult daughters, and two beloved cats.


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. (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 306: The Formation and Maintenance of Close Relationships

SMF 307: Conflict, Crisis, and Dissolution in Close Relationships

SMF 366: Special Topics in Couples, Marriages, and Family Studies (Family Law; Family Policy)


Family law

Family Relations

Qualitative Research

Fathering After Separation

Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution


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



Community of Practice: Family Law and Family Conflict for Kitchener-Waterloo Guelph-Wellington (Steering Committee Member)

Instructor, Family Relations Course for Mediators (May, 2018, Guelph, ON)

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

Member, Waterloo Region Law Association (2016-present)

Book Manuscript Reviewer, Columbia University Press (2016)



St. Jerome's University

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

Representative on FAUW (Faculty Association University of Waterloo) (October 2016 to present)

Acting Secretary, Academic Staff Association (July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015)


University of Waterloo

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-present)