As its name implies, this area of the law deals with family issues and domestic relations. Family and domestic relations include marriage and divorce, surrogacy, legitimacy, adoption, civil unions, domestic partnerships, prenuptial agreements, post nuptial agreements, annulments, property settlement, property division, alimony or maintenance, child support, paternity fraud, parental responsibility, variation orders and visitation.
While the list is long, it is not inclusive, and there are many other issues that go through family courts across the country. Family law courts often have the most crowded dockets. There has been a recent push for more mediation in marital issues, as some feel the current system pushes spouses into adversarial roles over money. However, this does not always work, as both parties need to set aside their differences and work towards a common goal in a divorce. In other instances, the divorce is so complicated and hostile that it needs to go to court for a judicial hearing to sort matters out.
Family law has undergone radical changes since the 70s, as the face of marriage changes to include gays and lesbians and domestic partnerships (much like marriage, but without the certificate). Although there have been many changes to accommodate different family units, this still remains a highly contentious area of the law.