The Law of Divorce and Relationship Dissolution
HANDBOOK OF DIVORCE AND RELATIONSHIP DISSOLUTION, Mark A. Fine, John H. Harvey, eds., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006
Posted: 2 Jun 2009
This chapter appears in a volume that treats the processes of divorce and relationship dissolution from the perspective of various disciplines. The focus in this chapter is on the legal aspects of dissolving a marriage or other adult relationship. The decision of spouses to terminate their marriage relationship marks a time of dramatic transition for the members of their family. The legal system, which generally respects the privacy of intact families, becomes involved with the various aspects of the family in the context of a marriage dissolution. Thus, the rules of law in each state govern the grounds for divorce, the economic rights of the spouses, and important child-related issues in the divorce context. In formulating these rules, state lawmakers must balance the sometimes conflicting interests of individual family members, the family as a unit, and the larger society. Given the importance of the interests at stake, the many and ongoing changes in modern family life, and public awareness of the laws in this field, the relevant rules of law are much discussed and often revised. The related topic of dissolution of unmarried, cohabiting relationships presents a different picture. Outside the limited but growing number of local and state domestic partnership laws, unmarried cohabitation is not a status recognized by the legal system. The courts generally become involved in the unwinding of a nonformalized cohabiting relationship only if the partners raise economic claims based on the existence of a contract or issues involving the welfare of their children. In this field, lawmakers must formulate rules that involve an appropriate degree of state involvement in the affairs of the family and most appropriate forms of regulation.
Keywords: divorce, alimony, spousal maintenance, equitable distribution, custody, premarital contracts
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