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What is Family Law?

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family law

Family law is an area of law that relates to family matters and involves a host of authorities, agencies and groups which participate in or influence the outcome of private disputes or social decisions involving family law.

Such a view of family law may be regarded as assisting the understanding of the context in which the law works and to indicate the policy areas where improvements can be made.

The UK is made up of three jurisdictions: Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England and Wales. Each has quite different systems of family law and courts.

Family law encompasses divorce, adoption, wardship, child abduction and parental responsibility. It can either be public law or private law. Family law cases are heard in both county courts and family proceedings courts (magistrates’ court), both of which operate under codes of Family Procedure Rules.

There is also a specialist division of the High Court of Justice, the Family Division which hears family law cases.


There are numerous legislation that covers family law. These are:

Marriage and civil partnership

  • Civil Partnerships Act 2004
  • Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

Divorce and dissolution

  • Matrimonial Causes Act 1973
  • Children Act 1989
  • Child Support Act 1990

Domestic violence

  • Family Law Act 1996
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Children Act 1989