Family Law in the United States

Martha A. Fineman, June R Carbone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Sociolegal scholars maintain that the role of family law is to promote the 'institutionalization' of the family. Institutionalization involves the creation of normative expectations, the coordination of behavior, and the regularization of roles associated with family formation, conduct, and dissolution. Two long-term developments currently are reshaping families and transforming family law: greater autonomy for women and growing economic inequality in Western societies. These changes have eroded the formerly near-universal view of marriage as the only appropriate site for childbearing. Growing inequality has created a menu of options in family formation that are importantly shaped by class. Cherlin (2004) sees the growth in nonmarital cohabitation and same-sex unions, as representing the 'institutionalization' of American marriage. Such normative 'innovations' have also been viewed as undermining the very institution of family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015


  • Children
  • Custody
  • Divorce
  • Family law
  • Marriage


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