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. Family law touches some of the most important aspects of our lives, including our most intimate relationships, our children, and our wealth. 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.
I wrote Family Law Reimagined (Harvard University Press 2014) to direct more scrutiny toward a field that is so significant and ubiquitous, yet remains relatively understudied. The book seeks to better understand family law by exploring how legal decisionmakers think about the subject.
The book focuses on the dominant stories that courts and legislatures use to explain family law and its governing principles. To a remarkable extent, these stories misdescribe the reality of family law, misdirect attention away from the actual problems that family law confronts, and misshape the policies that legal authorities pursue. In a nutshell, my book argues that much of the “common sense” that judges and legislators expound about family law actually makes little sense.