Family Law by the Numbers: The Story That Casebooks Tell

53 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2020 Last revised: 5 Dec 2020

See all articles by Laura T. Kessler

Laura T. Kessler

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2020


This Article presents the findings of a content analysis of 86 family law casebooks published in the United States from 1960 to 2019. Its purpose is to critically assess the discipline of family law with the aim of informing our understandings of family law’s history and exposing its ideological foundations and consequences. Although legal thinkers have written several intellectual histories of family law, this is the first quantitative look at the field.

The study finds that coverage of marriage and divorce in family law casebooks has decreased by almost half relative to other topics since the 1960s. In contrast, pages dedicated to child custody and child support have increased, more than doubling their relative share. At the same time, the boundaries of family law appear to remain quite stubborn. Notwithstanding sustained efforts by family law scholars and educators to restructure the field of family law so that it considers additional domains of law affecting families (such as tax, business, employment, health, immigration, and government benefits), the core of the academic field of family law has remained relatively static in the past 60 years. Marriage, divorce, child custody, and child support continue to dominate the topics presented in family law casebooks, representing 55% to 75% of their content since the 1960s.

Keywords: family law, legal history, legal education, critical legal theory, feminist legal theory, marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, alimony, marital property, LGBTQ, assisted reproduction, sex discrimination, constitutional law, gay rights, legal profession

JEL Classification: D13, D19, D10, D31

Suggested Citation

Kessler, Laura T., Family Law by the Numbers: The Story That Casebooks Tell (August 1, 2020). Arizona Law Review, Vol. 62, No. 4, 2020, University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 406, Available at SSRN:

Laura T. Kessler (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 South University St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
801-585-9697 (Phone)
801-581-6897 (Fax)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics