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The University of Southampton

LAWS3160 Family Law: State Regulation of Adults' Relationship Formation and Breakdown

Module Overview

Family law touches all of our lives at some point. It covers the legal regulation of family life, including the extent to which family life should be seen as a private matter and to which different types of family are treated differently for example marital, non-marital and 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 from different ethnic and faith traditions. This is examined both in relation to domestic law and the recognition of overseas marriages and divorces. As well as examining the substantive rules governing the aspects of family life that deal with the regulation of adult relationship formation and breakdown, 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. Ownership and occupation of the family home are explored to draw out the differences between analyses of houses as homes or property. Although there is some overlap with material studied in the property law modules, the focus in this module is quite different – examining the assumptions behind and the social effects of different approaches.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • specific areas of law governing relationship formation and breakdown including marriage, civil partnership, divorce and dissolution, financial provision, ownership and occupation of the family home; and domestic violence
  • the importance of procedure and its relationship with the substantive law plus 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 often complex primary and secondary legal sources relevant to family law
  • 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 a well-developed understanding of family law, its application to the solution of legal problems and the formulation of effective and comprehensive argument with clear and accurate use of language and legal terminology, 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.


• Private Law Orders • Financial responsibility of parents after relationship breakdown • Marriage and its limits • Civil partnerships • Divorce, past, present and future • Dissolution • Foreign marriages and divorce • Cohabitation • Financial Provision • Family property • Domestic violence • Human rights and family law (NB incorporated throughout the module)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be by two lectures per week and one tutorial per fortnight. The tutorials are intended as occasions for detailed discussion of specific topics within the broader areas covered in lectures, and students 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 relating to Family Law • Appreciation of constructive criticism of the law by consideration of key areas of controversy and doubt regarding the regulation of family life • Proposals for reform in select areas of Family Law Preparation for Tutorials will develop • Knowledge of the substantive principles and rules of Family Law; • 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.

Preparation for scheduled sessions46
Follow-up work10
Completion of assessment task10
Wider reading or practice10
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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

Gilmore, S. and Glennon, L. (2015). Hayes and William’s Family Law. 

Herring, J . (2015). Family Law. 



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:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the core/ recommended text as appropriate. A textbook and statute book are to be purchased by students. One textbook and the statute book need to be purchased by you. Prices for new copies in February 2016 were as follows: Gilmore, S. and Glennon, L., Hayes and William’s Family Law, (OUP, 2015, 4th ed). Harris-Short, S., Miles, J., and George, R., Family Law. Text, Cases and Materials (OUP, 2015, 3rd ed) Herring, J, Family Law (Pearson, 2015, 7th ed) Lowe, N and Douglas, G., Bromley’s Family Law, (OUP, 2015, 11th ed). Plus Blackstone’s Statutes on Family Law (OUP).

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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