Family Law

  • October 13, 2011
    Inside the Castle
    Law and the Family in 20th Century America
    Joanna L. Grossman and Lawrence M. Friedman

    By Joanna L. Grossman, a law professor at Hofstra University, and Lawrence M. Friedman, a law professor at Stanford University and professor by courtesy in the school’s departments of history and political science.

    Family law does not always make the headlines. Still, hardly anything is as important to people in our society as family life; we all have families, and we all need families. And family law is the legal framework that governs (or tries to govern) family life.

    Public attention to family law tends to center on a few controversial flashpoints. Same-sex marriage has been a hot subject for state legislatures and Congress, political candidates at every level, lawyers and judges in courtrooms, at the polls, and in every form of media imaginable.  But at the same time, hugely important developments in the American family and the law that governs them have gone largely unnoticed. 

    Inside the Castle: Law and the Family in 20th Century America deals with the development of family law in the United States in the 20th century. But it is not a history of legal doctrine. It is a book about the ways in which family law has reacted to changes in the larger society. 

    The 20th century was a century of tumultuous change in society; and what was happening in the big world transformed family life and therefore family law in fundamental ways.

  • March 30, 2010

    Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys are set to clash with family law experts and domestic violence (DV) survivors tomorrow at the U.S. Supreme Court. In Robertson v. U.S. ex rel. Watson, the issue before the Court is who should be the named enforcer of restraining orders, and thus, who is eligible to bring criminal contempt against one violating that order.

    The National Law Journal characterizes the case as "a little-noticed U.S. Supreme Court case that [advocates for DV survivors] say could make it much harder for battered women and men to enforce restraining orders against their abusers." Family law experts who filed an amicus brief in the case argue that DV survivors should have the right to enforce restraining orders in the District of Columbia and at least 14 states permitting private prosecution. They say that, otherwise, restraining order enforcement delayed by a prosecutor's busy schedule could prove perilous for those continuing to face aggression from their abusers.

    SCOTUSblog recited the facts as follows:

    The case involves a District of Columbia man, John Robertson, who was convicted of contempt of a local court created by Congress after a prosecution by his estranged girlfriend, Wykenna Watson, who had obtained a protection order against him.