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Family Law Exceptionalism in Comparative Law

35 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2011  

Fernanda Nicola

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: February 3, 2011


Today, family law is, to a surprising degree, at the center of comparative law inquiries committed to legal unification. Comparative family law projects range from analyzing convergence and harmonization proposals in the West, to law and development schemes in the rest of the world. The most salient reforms of abortion, same-sex marriage, transsexual, and adoption rights are increasingly promoted at the transnational level through international human rights and anti-discrimination principles. Regional and international human rights tribunals in Europe and Latin America are called upon to interpret the right to family life, non-discrimination, and freedom of movement principles to redefine the contours of domestic family, immigration, and employment law regimes. While comparative lawyers are increasingly involved in shaping these transnational family law regimes, they present their choices as reflecting objective scientific knowledge that they have acquired through the comparative law method. This consensus about a single comparative law method is troubling because it allows comparison between abstract family law regimes that bear little relevance to what happens in practice or to the proposal of a "best" family law regime for unification purposes, while obscuring the political and economic implications of adopting one particular family law regime over another.

Keywords: family law, comparative law

Suggested Citation

Nicola, Fernanda, Family Law Exceptionalism in Comparative Law (February 3, 2011). American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 58, p. 777, 2010; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2011-03. Available at SSRN:

Fernanda Giorgia Nicola (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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