Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964517 | Print ISBN: 9781412909167 | Online ISBN: 9781412964517| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Family law is the body of law that governs the relationships between individuals involved in long-term, intimate relationships. The central relationships of concern are those of parent and child and spouse and partner. Although the law does not create these relationships, legal recognition of some relationships and the corresponding nonrecognition of others have enormous consequences. For example, a woman may give birth to a child and, by virtue of having given birth, she may be recognized as the legal mother of that child. Through specified actions, her legal rights can be terminated and another person may be assigned those rights. This is what happens in adoption. After the adoption is completed, the law recognizes the adoptive parent or parents as the legal parents of the child. The original mother's legal relationship with the child is no longer recognized. People may establish relationships that closely resemble legally significant relationships, but the ...