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The University of Southampton

LAWS2027 Family Law: Children, Parents and the State

Module Overview

Family law touches all of our lives at some point. This module considers the legal regulation of family life, in particular the extent to which relationships between parents and their children should be seen as a private matter free from State interference, and simultaneously reflects on the ways in which various types of family are treated differently, for example marital, civil partnered, non-marital, including same-sex relationships and families. It considers the extent to which English family law is based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition and how easily it accommodates family patterns and beliefs from different ethnic and faith traditions. As well as examining the substantive rules governing the main aspects of family life, as they pertain to the regulation of relationships between parents and children, this module also examines the difficulties that the law has in balancing the need for clear and objective rules to govern behaviour, with the need to take the variety of individual circumstances into account. This has led to considerable use of judicial discretion and the strengths and weaknesses of this approach are considered during the module.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the main areas of law governing family life primarily concerning relationships between children, parents and the State;
  • the importance of procedure and its relationship with the substantive law;
  • the nature and value of 'discretionary justice';
  • the family traditions and values of other societies, and minorities in British society, as a method of introducing a comparative law perspective and recognising human rights issues;
  • historical influences on the current law;
  • the role of socio-legal research;
  • relevant policy documents on law reform, including consultation papers and reports from Government departments and the Law Commission.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and locate primary and secondary legal sources relevant to family law, specifically those pertaining to regulation of the relationships between children, family and the State;
  • analyse and assess legal materials by way of statutory interpretation, case analysis and review of secondary materials to identify, comprehend and evaluate fundamental legal principles and their impact upon contemporary issues;
  • produce effective, reasoned and structured responses to a given statement or proposition, which are adequately supported by reference to legal authority;
  • from a given factual scenario: identify the relevant legal facts and legal issues raised; explain the law applicable to the identified legal issues; apply the relevant law to the given facts; examine uncertainties in the law and its application to the given facts and evaluate alternative approaches and arguments; provide adequate support by reference to legal authority;
  • communicate in writing an understanding of family law, its application to the solution of legal problems and the formulation of effective argument with clear and accurate use of language and legal terminology and demonstrating an appreciation of academic integrity.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse, interpret and evaluate complex material;
  • effectively apply knowledge to solve practical problems;
  • formulate an effective, reasoned and structured argument;
  • communicate and present written arguments supported by appropriate evidence.


- Children and family law - Child welfare - Children’s rights - Defining parenthood - Parent-child relationships - Parental responsibility - Private disputes over children (private law orders) - International relocation - Child protection and the State (public law orders) - Adoption - Human rights and family law – this will be incorporated throughout the course and highlighted under specific topics.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Teaching will be delivered by way of lectures and tutorials The lectures will provide you with an overview of each substantive topic, highlighting key issues. Reading lists provided in advance will outline critical issues, required reading, questions and guidance for further study. Tutorials will provide you with an opportunity to address specific family law issues relevant to the module in greater detail. The tutorials are intended as occasions for detailed discussion of specific topics within the broader areas covered in lectures, and you are expected to come fully prepared. Reading and questions for preparation will be placed on Blackboard in advance of each tutorial. Tutorials are also occasions for you to raise problems and questions and to obtain feedback on your progress. Teaching methods include: - Lectures to provide knowledge and information within a structured context; - Small group tutorial work focused on problem solving skills and development of reasoned argument; - Advance study is required for the tutorials and active participation required by all members of the group. Attendance at Lectures will develop: - The structure of the subject and key applicable substantive principles and rules of law in this field; - Appreciation of constructive criticism of the law by consideration of key areas of controversy and doubt regarding the regulation of family life, with regard to children, parents and the State; - Proposals for reform in select areas of Family Law. Preparation for Tutorials will develop: - Knowledge of the substantive principles and rules of Family Law, as they relate to children, parents and the State; - Ability to manage and access diverse range of sources of law, especially statutory material and case law, many on-line; - Ability to critically evaluate those sources and participate constructively in oral discussions concerning them; - Ability to structure and express thoughts in logically coherent way; - Ability to apply those materials to problem solving exercises; - Time management and research skills. Learning activities include: - Directed reading assisted by reading lists and availability of materials on Blackboard; - Accessing electronic resources in the form of legislation, journals and case materials; - Reviewing and evaluating complex material; - Tackling and solving factual legal problems; - Formulating and presenting in oral and written form reasoned and structured arguments through formative tutorial activities and assessment. Engagement with the lecture sessions, from ‘active listening’ to asking specific questions on the materials in order to ensure you have understood what is being presented to you, both during and after the lectures. Preparation for and participation in the tutorials. As noted above, the tutorials are opportunities to test out your knowledge and understanding, and to discuss specific issues, problems and points of uncertainty. Preparation for and participation in the tutorials will develop: - Your ability to discuss key principles and their limitations with your peers and tutor; - Your ability to develop and sustain reasoned arguments, in general and in relation to specific (often hypothetical) problem scenarios; - Your ability to manage a range of sources, to review and evaluate complex material; - Your time management and research skills.

Completion of assessment task10
Wider reading or practice10
Follow-up work10
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Gilmore, S. and Glennon, L. (2018). Hayes and William’s Family Law. 

Herring, J. (2017). Family Law. 

Blackstone’s Statutes on Family Law 2018/19. 

Lowe, N and Douglas, G. (2015). Bromley’s Family Law. 

Harris-Short, S., Miles, J., and George, R. (2015). Family Law: Text, Cases and Materials. 

Other Resources. he resources required are the books listed, together with access to the statutory and case law material central to the module. That material is available via the electronic resources provided by the School and the Library, especially though access to the legal databases: Westlaw, Justis and LexisNexis. Specific attention is drawn to the Family Law related materials available via Jordans (a leading Family Law publisher), which the University subscribes to. In addition, extensive use of Blackboard ( is made to support you in your learning. Examples of the current set texts are provided below, but inevitably this list changes on an annual basis. The books on this reading list will be useful for studying all of the three Family Law modules.



Mock Examination


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assessment 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library, and thus we would expect you to purchase the core texts, i.e., one core textbook and the statute book. In addition, there may be costs associated with printing out hard copies of cases and articles.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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