Family Law Dissertation Topic Examples

1. The decision of K v K and child relocation: how the law has changed following the decision when a parent wishes to move abroad with children.

The decision of K v K (2011) is indeed a landmark case which seized upon the opportunity to undertake a much-needed modernised approach to the law on relocation. This study will critically evaluate the changes brought about by the decision in terms of the problem areas it remedied and the suitable aspects it retained. It will ultimately be demonstrated that K v K represents a modernised approach, rendering the law compatible with recent social developments in child care. The shift has now moved from the need to determine who the sole carer is to the need to ensure the welfare of the child and encourage joint care where desirable. Yet closer analysis reveals the inherent errors in the decision, which will similarly be focused upon.

Suggested Reading

  • Eaton, D & Reardon, M 2011. 'Relocation After K v K', Family Law, vol. 12, no. 20.
  • Herring, J 2011. Family Law, 5th edn, Essex: Pearson.
  • Parkinson, P 2006. 'Family Law and the Indissolubility of Parenthood', Family Law Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 40.
  • Standley, K 2010. Family Law, 7th edn, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

2. Shared Residence Orders, the Problem of Time and Allocating Care Realistically.

Courts are often faced with the difficult decision as to whether they must make shared or single residence orders. Such an assessment requires that important yet potentially conflicting factors be taken into account. Yet what are such factors and how much weight is to be attached to each? This study will examine the case law on shared residence orders in a bid to determine which factors are deemed the most important by the courts, and which approach is generally favoured. This will inevitably cause a number of critical areas to arise in which it will be considered that the law is in need of alteration or reform. It will ultimately be demonstrated that becoming preoccupied with analyses of time detracts from other, more important elements.

Suggested Reading

  • Bates, P, Jenks, H, Golding, S, Kempton, J & Ramsey, S 2011. Relationships, Families and the Law: Manual 1, 2nd edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Gilmore, S 2011. 'The Payne Saga: Precedent and Family Law Cases', Family Law, vol. 41, no. 9.
  • Welstead, M & Edwards, S 2008. Family Law, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Weyland, I 1995. 'Judicial Attitudes to Contact and Shared Residence since the Children Act 1989', Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 17, no. 4.

3. Cohabitation law reform is long overdue. The current law relating to the end of a relationship is confused, outdated and unfair. Discuss.

There is little doubt that cohabitation is a common choice among couples; changes in social attitudes towards relationships have seen a decline in the importance of marriage. Consequently the law has seen the need to respond to cohabitants. However, the law has thus far stubbornly held on to the desire to treat cohabitants and married couples differently. This is becoming a major problem, particularly in light of the increasing number of couples who choose to cohabit. Reform is inevitable. This study will explore which areas of the law are in dire need of reform and why. The overall issue will be targeted, questioning why married couples should have certain automatic rights whereas cohabitants should not. It is clear that cohabitants need to be given greater legal recognition, perhaps even equal status as married couples. Is this possible? Could a separate law be developed to deal with cohabitants? What is clear is that the UK needs to loosen its hold on the traditional institution of marriage. How it will go about this, however, is quite another issue.

Suggested Reading

  • Barlow, A 2004. 'Regulating Marriage and Cohabitation in 21st century Britain', Modern Law Review, vol. 67, no. 2.
  • Diduck, A & Kaganas, F 2012. Family Law, Gender and the State: Text, Cases, and Materials, 3rd edn, London: Hart.
  • Hale, B & Pearl, D 2009. The Family, Law & Society: Cases and Materials, 6th edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Smart, C & Stevens, P 2000. Cohabitation Breakdown, London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

4. Anyone who has attended a civil partnership ceremony, and seen how similar it is to a marriage ceremony, knows how extraordinarily petty it is for the UK Government to say that a same-sex couple can have all the rights and responsibilities of marriage through an institution with a different name (civil partnership) but cannot have access to the word and institution of marriage. Critically consider the case for and against legislation to extend the availability of civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Huge shifts in social attitudes over recent years have ignited the debate concerning the way in which family law deals with same-sex couples. This is particularly the case for the law on marriage and civil partnerships. This study will critically explore why, if same-sex couples are given the same rights in civil partnerships as married couples, the law does not permit same-sex couples to marry. Is this discrepancy the result of outdated traditional morality or do more profound reasons lurk behind the law's current stance? The study will examine why same-sex couples have thus far been denied the right to marry, and the potential consequences that may arise should they be given such a right. It will be demonstrated that there are no other apparent reasons than outdated ascriptions to the sanctity of marriage, and that consequently reform is not only necessary, but overdue. Although the law's approach appears to be more symbolic than anything else, it is clear that the time has come to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Suggested Reading

  • Barker, N 2006. 'Sex and the Civil Partnership Act: The Future of (Non)Conjugality?', Feminist Legal Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 241-259.
  • Bates, P, Jenks, H, Golding, S, Kempton, J & Ramsey, S 2011. Law: Relationships, Families and the Law Manual 1. 2nd edn., New York: Oxford University press.
  • Cretney, S 2006. Same-Sex relationships: From 'Odious Crime' to 'Gay Marriage', New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Gerstmann, E 2004. Same-sex Marriage and the Constitution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kiernan, K 2004. 'Redrawing the Boundaries of Marriage', Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 980-987.

5. Appealing Divorce Law Decisions under the Matrimonial Cause Act 1973: Ancillary Relief and Principles of Fairness.

It was stated by Lord Hoffman in the landmark decision of Piglowska v Piglowski (1999) that 'to allow successive appeal in the hope of producing an answer which accords with perfect justice is to kill the parties with kindness'. The case demonstrates those unfortunate situations in which litigation cost more to distribute ancillary relief than the value of the actual funds distributed. This study will explore the tendency of parties to appeal decisions on grounds of 'wrongness' disguised as 'legal error'. The courts ambit of discretion in determining how ancillary relief is to be distributed will be critically examined, in conjunction with expectations of fairness. It will be demonstrated that the concept of fairness is a major cause of dissatisfaction between parties in such cases, for individual fairness is inherently distinct to fairness in conjunction with the rule of law. The effect of Pigloswka on the broad ambit of discretion afforded by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 will be evaluated, in conjunction with the courts' clear willingness to ensure that fairness is a paramount consideration in ancillary relief cases.

Suggested Reading

  • Bailey-Harris, R 2003. Case Reports: Ancillary Relief'', Family Law, vol. 33, no. 387.
  • Cretney, SM, Masson, JM & Bailey-Harris,R 1990. Principles of Family Law, London: Sweet and Maxwell.
  • DiMaggio, D 2003. The "Prodigious Spouse": Equitable Distribution and Wealthy Wage Earner'', Illinois B.J, vol. 91, no. 460.

6. The Effects of Domestic Violence on Male Victims: The Law's Response to the Ultimate Taboo.

The focus of this study is to identify the effects and challenges of domestic violence on male victims. It seeks to reveal the hidden aspects of abused men who suffer with often little legal redress or support. It is commonly concluded that the impact of domestic violence on male victims is greater than female victims because of the inadequate support available, both legally and socially. Research shows that a considerable number of men suffer domestic violence; this study will seek to explore whether the law adequately deals with male victims. An array of weaknesses and gaps in the law will be revealed, which will progress to a variety of proposals for improvement and reform so that the law can deal appropriately with male victims of domestic violence.

Suggested Reading

  • Bowen, E 2011. The Rehabilitation of Partner- Violent Men, Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Buzawa ES, Buzawa, EG & Stark, E 2003. Responding to domestic violence, 4th edn, London: Sage Publications.
  • Cook, PW 2009. The Hidden side of Domestic Violence, 2nd edn, New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Dulton, GD 2006. Rethinking Domestic Violence, Canada: University of British Columbia Press.
  • Radford, J & Harne, L 2008. Tackling Domestic Violence, Berkshire: Open University Press.

7. The Welfare of Children and Child Labour - Its Determinants and Effects.

The welfare of children attracts a considerable degree of literature involving cross-national quantitative analysis, where the quality of life of children has been partially defined as the rate of infant mortality. This literature provides evidence which serves to support a number of theoretical perspectives, each seeking to explain the cross-national variations in infant mortality rates. These theories have included political modernization, economic growth, the position of countries in the international economic and political order, the status of the sexes, and governmental power. A quality of life indicator that has been the focus of an extensive amount of qualitative literature is child labour. Child labour poses a major threat across the globe. This study will seek to examine existing legal mechanisms devised to prevent and detect child labour. The UK's stance on and contribution to the prevention of child labour will be critically examined, leading to an ultimate conclusion as to what more could be done.

Suggested Reading

  • Gursharan, V 1994. Child Labour and Women Workers, New Delhi: Ashish Publication House.
  • Forastieri, V 1997. Children at Work, Geneva: International Labour Organization Child Labour Collection.
  • Gendreau, F 2000. 'Public Policy, Society and Child Labour', B Schlemmer (ed), The Exploited Child, New York: Zed Books.
  • Sawyer, R 1988. Children Enslaved, New York: Routledge.
  • Seabrook, J 2001. Children of Other Worlds, Sterling: Pluto Press.

8. Child Protection and Laws Governing the Authority of the State to Intervene.

To what extent is the UK granted authority to intervene in the private lives of families when a child's safety and wellbeing is at stake? This study will examine this burning issue, focusing on the delicate issues that courts are often faced with when children are neglected and abused. When does legislation permit state intervention, the removal of children from the family home or the termination of parental rights? Although the definition of abuse and neglect varies internationally, the UK's Children Act 1989 generally requires that the conduct of parents create a serious risk of immediate harm to the child. Yet how is the concept of 'significant harm' defined by the courts and how do they exercise the discretion that is granted to them? This study will seek to explore the extent to which the UK seeks to protect children from neglect and abuse, evaluating whether such discretion granted to the courts is desirably flexible or should be restricted.

Suggested Reading

  • McFarlane, A & Reardon, M 2006. Child Care and Adoption Law: A Practical Guide, London: Jordan Publishing.
  • Eekelaar, J & Dingwall, R 1990. The Reform of Child Care Law: A Practical Guide to the Children Act 1989, London: Routledge.
  • Ryan, M 2008. The Children Act 1989: Putting it into Practice, London: Ashgate.

9. Ensuring Fairness: the Division of Finances in Divorce.

This study will consider the case law principles and statutory provisions which govern the division of finances upon divorce in a bid to achieve fairness. Developments in the areas of legal aid and mediation affecting divorce law will be evaluated in order to arrive at a conclusion as to whether they are suitable or lacking in application and content. The law has as of yet declined to adopt an absolute stance on the division of assets; consequently the law has been severely criticised. As the current law stands, it is a conglomeration of precedents and legal principles developed by the courts; this is primarily due to the fact that the law on ancillary relief has not been reformed since the mid-sixties. This has caused uncertainty to result in such cases. The study will examine the main areas in need of reform, predicting the effects of such reforms and accentuating the need to adopt an updated, consistent approach to ancillary relief. The core concept here will therefore be that of fairness. Yet should flexibility be sacrificed in the bid for certainty or should the law maintain some elements of flexibility in order to encourage settlements.

Suggested Reading

  • Bates, P, Jenks, H, Golding, S, Kempton, J & Ramsey, S 2011. Relationships, Families and the Law, Manual 1, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Standley, K 2010. Family Law, 7th edition, London: Palgrave MacMillan.

10. The interests of the resident parent appear to outweigh those of the child. This is an outdated approach adopted by the decision of Payne and is in dire need of reform.

The modernisation of family life has presented a major problem to the courts in situations concerning the type of residence order that is to be chosen for the child when parents separate. The issue is indeed sensitive, requiring that the court attach relevance to a number of equally valid considerations. A basic approach to the issue of residence orders leads one to automatically assume that the court should give priority to the parent that spends the largest amount of time with the child. However, this may not always be the best option; hence determining issues of 'time' is inherently problematic as well as questionable in terms of plausibility. These issues will be explored by this study, which will seek to establish the approach of the court in determining which residence order is the most apt according to the particular situation. However, while there are major problems in this area of the law, it is arguable that the approach of the court conveys an increasing preparedness to contemplate as a viable option the shared residence order.

Suggested Reading

  • Davis, G & Pearce, J 1999. 'The Welfare Principle in Action', Family Law, vol. 29, no. 547.
  • Diduck, A & Kaganas, F 2012. Family Law, Gender and the State: Text, Cases and Materials, 3rd edn, Oxford: Hart.
  • Gilmore, S 2006. 'Contact/Shared Residence and Child Well-Being: Research Evidence and its Implications for Legal Decision-Making', International Journal of Law, Policy and Family, vol. 20, no. 3.
  • Harris-Short, S & Miles, J 2007. Family Law: Text, cases and Materials, New York: Oxford University Press.