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Family law

Module information>

Academic Direction
Laws Consortium
Modes of Study

Family law affects every member of society. Modern legal regulation of family relationships involves a complex interaction between the family and the state.

Marriage, divorce and the legal status of offspring are intertwined with questions of financial provision, child welfare and wider public policy issues.

Topics covered

  • Marriage, civil partnership, divorce and cohabitation. Requirements of a valid marriage or civil partnership. Form and capacity. Nullity. Divorce. Dissolution of civil partnerships. Judicial separation. Differences between married, civilly registered and unmarried relationships.
  • Domestic abuse. Remedies for violence, harassment, stalking and molestation and orders relating to occupation of the matrimonial home. Prohibition of and protection from forced marriage. Criminal responses to domestic abuse.
  • Financial provision. The powers of the family court concerning financial provision for spouses and children, during marriage or civil partnership and on divorce. Types of order available and their duration and variation. Child support.
  • The law relating to children. Parent and child. Proof of parentage. Legal aspects of developments in assisted reproduction. Children’s rights and parental responsibilities. Orders under the Children Act 1989 regulating aspects of parental responsibility. The powers and duties of local authorities under the Children Act 1989. Adoption of children.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the module successfully you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the requirements for valid marriage, civil partnership and divorce/dissolution of relationships and the underlying policy of the law in regulating personal relationships
  • Explain the operation and policy of the statute and case law to protect vulnerable family members, from domestic violence and child harm/neglect/abuse and the role of state institutions such as the Home Office, the Police and the Local Authority, in this protection
  • Explain and analyse critically the principles and operation of the law as regulator of financial and property relations in and at the end of personal relationships, including sharing of wealth and support for children and former partners
  • Demonstrate knowledge of law’s regulation of the parent/child relationship, including the principles of legal parentage, parental responsibility, s.8 Children Act orders, adoption and the paramountcy of welfare
  • Analyse and critique the continued development of the welfare principle in child-related legal matters
  • Demonstrate a) understanding of the role of human rights in family legal matters and b) analysis of its operation in case law
  • Apply their knowledge to analyse moderately complex legal questions and problems
  • Critique standard legal materials and arguments
  • Conduct moderately complex research exercises and use research evidence appropriately to support arguments
  • Work with others on a learning task, including providing effective feedback and responding positively to suggestions and criticism from others.


4hr 15 mins unseen examination

Essential reading

Herring, J. Family law. (Harlow: Pearson, 2023) 11th edition [ISBN 9781292447582].