Matrimonial and family law are about families, and matters that affect families, individuals, and their relationships. The field of family law involves all kinds of legal issues pertaining to families. Matrimonial law is under the umbrella of family law that deals with issues that relate to marriage specifically.

How Is a Family Defined

The definition of a family was once very clear-cut and specific. In this definition, immediate family consists of a husband, wife, and children. And the extended family includes brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The traditional concept of a family is being redefined as society changes over time. Moreover, the legal concept of family is not the same as it used to be.

In legal terms, “family” used to mean people who were either blood relatives or related to each other through marriage. That definition has since expanded to include individuals who are linked in other ways, as well. For example, a family does not necessarily include a wife and husband pairing; it can consist of two same-sex adults or two people who are in a committed, long-term relationship but are not married. The law now considers other factors, such as commitments and emotional ties, to account for the modern definition of family.

What Issues Qualify as Family Law

Most family law issues involve marriage and long-term marriage-like relationships. However, family law also includes other matters relating to families.In adoption cases, the individuals or couples who want to adopt children must petition the family court for an adoption order. Once an adoption order is granted, it transfers all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood from the biological parents to the adoptive parents. Domestic abuse also falls under the umbrella of family law. When people are victims of domestic violence and abuse, they can apply to family law courts for an occupation order or a non-molestation order. Once granted, the non-molestation order protects the victims from their abusers, while the occupation order mandates who can and can’t enter the home where a victim lives.

What Is Matrimonial Law

Matrimonial law covers issues that relate to marriage, divorce, separation, child support, child custody, and more. Since the law now recognizes that not all intimate relationships involve marriage, matrimonial law also covers legal matters relating to long-term marriage-like relationships and civil partnerships. This includes:

  • Marriage
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Civil partnership
  • Separation 
  • Divorce
  • Asset distribution
  • Property rights
  • Financial settlements
  • Adoption
  • Child arrangement orders
  • Parental responsibility orders

What Happens in Family Law Proceedings

The wide range of matrimonial and family law matters differ in many ways, but most have some similar processes involved. In most circumstances, disputes in family law do not reach the point where the courts become involved. This is partially due to the fact that most people prefer to solve their differences without involving the court system. When children are included in the dispute, it may be advantageous to avoid the courtroom setting. Additionally, the court doesn’t usually become involved in family law disputes, as the family court requires that the parties in the dispute and their attorneys try alternative resolution methods before they petition the court.