Family law is the branch of law which deals with all matters related to family unit and other domestic relations such as surrogacy, adoption, domestic partnerships, civil unions, marriage, divorce, child abduction, child abuse matters, child neglect, child maintenance, child adoption, paternity cases, child visitation rights, child custody, alimony and division of family property
While broadly family legislation encompasses every aspect of a family as seen as a ‘unit of people living together for many reasons’, there are many finer aspects relating to ‘family’ in many different contexts in various parts of the world.
Family indicates a group of people affiliated by a kinship, affinity or co-residence
Family – ‘con’ means together and ‘sanguine’ means blood; so it simply refers to people descended from a common ancestor. It is an important legal aspect to determine if two people can marry or to determine who inherits property left by a person who has not made a Will.
Affinity in the family sense means attraction of feeling or kinship or relation by marriage
Co-residence refers to individuals or a group of people living in the same residence and carrying out responsibilities of a family or household. This may include a parent and child or children and other members sharing blood ties or living together for other reasons.
Family law, therefore, cannot be confined within social, economic or governmental regulations. There are simply far too many aspects and complexities involving human relations that laws in many countries have diverse legalities referring to each country’s intrinsic social and familial guidelines.
Stark and startling contrasts govern legislation in certain parts of the world. In some societies, patriarchal laws govern while in some others matriarchal. In many parts of Europe, before the advent of the legal system, as we see it today, the Church was seen as the law enforcer.
Historically, family law has been grounded on western feudalism. In the 1970s, family law underwent rapid changes and became redefined over years particularly in areas relating to divorce, child custody, family property, etc. experienced many changes. Such rapid changes enabling quick fix solutions in marriage, divorce, and child support drew widespread criticism from many quarters that viewed rising cases of marital discord and disharmony all over the world as a dangerous trend.
Today’s family unit has evolved over the generations and may be a concise or shortened version of the co-resident families of the past. Relationships too have evolved and newer legal aspects to family law are being formulated to cope with the complexities of modern life and emerging trends.