Anatomy of a Family

Anatomy Of A Family Law Case
Shamieka Reyes
Aaliyah Muhammad
LEG 110
August 23, 2014

Anatomy of a Family

Recently, I have learned that there are many definitions of family. A family doesn’t only
consist of a mother, father, and their children. Also, a marriage isn’t only between a man and a
woman anymore. Traditional meanings of marriage and family are different. There are many
benefits to marriage and having a family. There are many challenges that occur in marriages
which end in divorce. Ending a spousal relationship effects the community, family, and friends.
There are many different definitions for family. The traditional family is a basic social
unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or
not. There are single-parent families which are “a social unit consisting of one or more adults
together with the children they care for.” (Dictionary.com) Also, there are families that have a
grand-parent raising their grand-children. There are also same-sex couples raising adopted
children. I personally believe that a family is made up of people who love each other and take
care of each other. The legal definition of family are a collective body of persons who live under
the same roof. “A family comprises a father, mother, and children. In a wider sense, it may
include domestic servants; all who live in one house under one head. In a still broader sense, a
group of blood-relatives; all the relations who descend from a common ancestor, or who spring
from a common root. See Civil Code La. art. 3522, no. 16; 9 Ves. 323. A husband and wife
living together may constitute a “family,” within the meaning of that word as used in a
homestead law. Miller v. Finegan, 26 Fla. 29, 7 South. 140, 6 L.R. A. 813.” (The Law
Dictionary: Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary 2nd Ed)

Anatomy of a Family

Marriage is a contract with the state. It is a legal union of a couple as spouses. “In the
English common law tradition from which our legal doctrines and concepts have developed, a
marriage was a contract based upon a voluntary private agreement by a man and a woman to
become husband and wife. Marriage was viewed as the basis of the family unit and vital to the
preservation of morals and civilization. Traditionally, the husband had a duty to provide a safe
house, pay for necessities such as food and clothing, and live in the house.” (Cornell University
Law School: Marriage) Also, marriage is a union between man and wife. As of today in a few
states allow gay marriage which would change this traditional definition of marriage. These gay
couples raise children together as well. Many states are divided on same-sex marriage. Thirtyone states and two territories currently have a law or constitutional amendment restricting
marriage to the union of one man and one woman and prohibit same-sex marriages. In contrast
nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.
There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided to married couples on the basis
of marital status in Federal law. There are many advantages to being married. One benefit to
being married is the sense of stability. For example, single people aren’t with the same person
every year and some catch diseases due to not having one partner. The second benefit to
marriage would be the increase in your household income. For example, there will be two
paychecks coming in the house and you will be financially stable. The third benefit to marriage
is having both parent’s raising their children. For example, children do well in a home with both
parent’s. Also, it’s not a strain on one party because they both share the parenting
responsibilities. Also, there are social

Anatomy of a Family

Security benefits, family and medical leave. For example, “The Family and Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) guarantees family and medical leave to employees to care for parents, children or
spouses. As currently interpreted, this law does not provide leave to care for a domestic partner
or the domestic partner’s family member. Family and medical leave should be a benefit for all
American workers.” (Human Rights Campaign) There are many other legal protections that you
can receive through marriage. For example:

“Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of
intimacy).

Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as
alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few
states).

Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can't force you to
disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse
during your marriage.

Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.

Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.

Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.”
(Nolo)

There are four ways to end a spousal relationship. They are dissolution, divorce, process
options, legal separation, and annulment. All of these options are accompanied by a legal
attorney. Dissolution is a cooperative decision made between the two parties in which they agree

Anatomy of a Family

on all issues and move on. This process is very private until the final judgment which is part of
the public court record. First, a written agreement is made that outlines a mutual understanding
on parenting matters, property, and support. Than you can petition the court for dissolution
“which is your request that the court legally end the marriage in accordance with your separation
agreement. As a rule, you go to court only for a formal, brief dissolution hearing about 30 to 90
days after you submit your petition.” (Thomas, McCormack) Another way to end a marriage is
through divorce.
Divorce is the alternative to when both parties can’t come to an agreement. After one spouse
filed for divorce the other has twenty-eight days after being served to respond. A final hearing is
set forty-two days after filing for a divorce. Process options is a collaborative decision where
both parties sit down with their attorneys to resolve issues privately out of the courtroom. The
parties make decisions to resolve property, parenting, and support issues. A judge isn’t needed
for this type of process because they outline their own interests.
Legal Separation is a formal decree that the court specifies the division of debts and assets.
Both parties use this time to resolve marital issues or reconsider divorce. Also, they use this time
to agree on the divorce settlement. The last option to end a marriage is through and annulment.
An annulment establishes that a marriage was never valid. An annulment can only be made in
special cases. For example, “There are seven grounds for an annulment: 1) at least one party was
underage; 2) the parties have a close blood relationship; 3) a party was still legally married at the
time of the current marriage; 4) one party was unable to consummate the marriage; 5) one spouse
lacked the mental capacity to enter into a marriage contract; 6) one person married under duress
or by force; 7) one person entered into marriage fraudulently, concealing such things as criminal
history, sexually transmitted diseases or impotence.” (Thomas McCormick)

Anatomy of a Family

There are three challenges that may occur as a result of ending a spousal relationship. One
challenge is custody issues. For example, if both parties can’t come into agreement about who
the children will stay with the court will decide. Secondly, one spouse can find it hard to adjust
financially without the other spouse or experience loneliness.
The third challenge to ending a spousal relationship is custody. For example, when you are
married you see your children everyday but after a divorce one parent will see their child less.
The spouse who gets custody often becomes bitter and denies the other parent adequate time
with the child. As a result the children many have some emotional issues because they are placed
in the middle.
In my conclusion, family and marriage can no longer be defined in the traditional sense. A
family is a group of people who live together and don’t have to necessarily be related. It doesn’t
consist of a man and women anymore raising children. There are single-parent homes which are
considered families as well. Ending a spousal relationship will affect the family adversely and
end marital benefits. However, sometimes when both partners can no longer get along a
separation is needed. I agree that there are many advantages to being married no matter the sex
and that there are times when it’s best for a dissolution. Also, ending a spousal relationship
doesn’t necessarily end a family. The one-parent who provides for the children becomes the
children’s family. It is obvious, that family and relationships are very important to society.

Anatomy of a Family

References
Thomas, McCormack. (2009). Four Ways To End A Marriage. Retrieved from http://www.tmclaw.net/four-ways-to-end-a-marriage/
The Law Dictionary: Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary 2nd ED.
Retrieved from http://thelawdictionary.org/family/
Cornell University Law School: Marriage. Retrieved from
http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/marriage
Human Rights Campaign: Overview Of Federal Benefits Granted To Married Couples. Retrieved
from http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/an-overview-of-federal-rights-and-protections-grantedto-married-couples