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Family Law

The Family, In Context

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Much of the family law scholarship of the 1970s and 1980s focused narrowly on the marital family itself. That scholarship considered the effects of marriage and divorce laws on families, often with respect to sex equality. It also considered the wisdom of laws governing child custody after the breakup of marriage, as well as the extent to which outsiders to the marital family should be given custody rights. Continuing in this vein, we might think of the family law scholarship of the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s in terms of the camera zooming back from the marital family in order to focus on the proliferation of families that diverge from the heterosexual marital norm — same-sex couples, nonmarital cohabitants, and single-parent families. In these decades, scholars focused on whether and how such family forms should be recognized under the law, and particularly on how similarly these families should be treated to heterosexual marital families.