Introduction: Family Law Reimagined

Family Law Reimagined, Harvard University Press (2014)

Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-28

17 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2014

Date Written: June 16, 2014


One of the law’s most important and far-reaching roles is to govern family life and family members. Family law decides who counts as kin, how family relationships are created and dissolved, and what legal rights and responsibilities come with marriage, parenthood, sibling ties, and other family bonds. It structures both the details of daily life and the overarching features of society. Yet while there are wonderful scholars and lawyers working in family law, the field continues to attract much less critical attention than it deserves.

Family Law Reimagined is the first book to explore the canonical stories that judges and legislators repeatedly invoke to explain family law and its governing principles. These stories contend that family law is exclusively local, that it repudiates market principles, that it has eradicated the imprint of common law doctrines that subordinated married women, that it is dominated by contract rules permitting individuals to structure their relationships as they choose, and that it consistently prioritizes children’s interests over parents’ rights. Canonical stories about family law ignore the family law governing the poor and overlook family relationships other than marriage, parenthood, and (sometimes) their functional equivalents.

This book reveals how family law’s canon misdescribes the reality of family law, misdirects attention away from the actual problems that family law confronts, and misshapes the policies that legal authorities pursue. It demonstrates how much of the “common sense” that decisionmakers expound about family law actually makes little sense.

Family Law Reimagined uncovers and critiques the family law canon and outlines a path to reform. The book challenges conventional answers and asks questions that judges and lawmakers routinely overlook.

Note: Downloadable document is Table of Contents and Introduction only.

Keywords: Family Law, Canon, Marriage, Wife, Husband, Spouse, Parent, Child, Sibling, Domestic Relations, Federalism, Localism, DOMA, Windsor, Surrogacy, Surrogate, Sex Equality, Sex Discrimination, Women, Coverture, Status-To-Contract, Custody, Divorce, Adoption, Welfare, Poverty

JEL Classification: D10, D63, H31, I20, I30, J12, J13, J15, J16, J70

Suggested Citation

Hasday, Jill Elaine, Introduction: Family Law Reimagined (June 16, 2014). Family Law Reimagined, Harvard University Press (2014), Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-28, Available at SSRN:

Jill Elaine Hasday (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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