Family law deals with legal matters that affect families, including issues such as child adoption, surrogacy, separation and divorce, and child custody arrangements. Family law can also step in to protect children or adults who are being abused or otherwise mistreated by a family member.
Most disputes in the field of family law involve marriage or long-term relationships; for instance, pre-nuptial agreements, separation, divorce, and the issues that accompany divorce such as custody and financial arrangements. However, family law does oversee other matters, particularly relating to the protection of children, and the care of the elderly and vulnerable people.
Some examples of family law matters include:
Adoption: When a child is adopted, the family court transfers the rights and obligations of the biological parents to the adoptive parents. Once the process is complete the adoptive parents are the legal guardians of the child.
Marriage: Marriages are typically ended with an absolute decree, which means the marriage is legally ended and the couple’s legal and financial affairs are separated. The family court can also end a marriage via a decree of nullity, which means the marriage is considered legally invalid.
Protection from domestic violence: Family law protects people from domestic violence in two ways: via non-molestation order, which protects a victim from abusive behaviour, and via occupation order, which can legally evict an abusive partner.
The court of protection: This branch of the family court protects people who are unable to make decisions for themselves. The court of protection can either make decisions on their behalf, or appoint someone to make those decisions.
Public family law: These are cases where local authorities step in to protect a child or other vulnerable person. For instance, when a child is at risk of abuse or neglect local authorities may apply for a care, supervision, or emergency protection order.
Resolving Family Disputes
When family disputes reach the courts, they’re dealt with by specialist branches of the high court, county court, or magistrate court. However, as UK law requires that people try to resolve disputes out of court whenever possible, most disputes are resolved via negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. These processes involve one or more meetings, where each party can voice their concerns and wants, and try to come to an agreement.
Family Law Resources
Resolution - Resolution supports the development of family lawyers through its national and regional training programmes, through publications and good practice guides and through its accreditation scheme.
If any students wish to contribute to this section or add relevant subsections related to family law please do so through the university portal by updating Resource No.00032.