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Views Read Edit View history. This page was last edited on 10 December , at By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Danny opens a new Chinese grocery store and shows off this new modern apartment. Clandestine marriage was significant at a time when a man could acquire control over the property of a woman, including absolute ownership of much of it.

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The emancipation of women has put an end to the economic advantages of the clandestine marriage, but the legislation to which it gave rise has left an impress on the statute books. In order to satisfy the requirement of a voluntary consent to a marriage, a party must have reached an age at which he or she is able to give meaningful consent, and it is also implied that a person may be legally disqualified on mental grounds from having capacity to marry.

Marriages of young children, negotiated by their parents, are prohibited in most modern societies. Historically, the attitude of the English common law was that a person under seven years of age lacked the mental ability to consent to marriage, and that between seven years and puberty there could be consent but not consummation. Most modern legal systems provide for a legal minimum age of marriage ranging from 15 to 18 years. Some systems require parental consent to marriage when the parties are above the minimum age but below some other age, and failure to obtain this may be a ground for annulment.

It is difficult to say, therefore, whether modern provisions have a valid social function or are the flotsam of older ideas on marriage. Other laws forbid marriage between persons having certain ties of relationship , either of blood or of marriage. The rules against marrying close relatives are sometimes said to be directed against the dangers of inbreeding, but this does not explain the prohibition against unions between persons who are related only by marriage.

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In classical Chinese society, marriage was regarded as a linking of different families, and the traditional pattern was exogamy marriage outside the family. In ancient Egypt , on the other hand, where the pharaoh was deified, marriages within the blood were considered desirable in order to preserve its purity. Marriages between cousins are apparently encouraged in some Arab countries, perhaps to strengthen family ties and to keep property together.

Religion has had a strong influence on marriage law, often providing the main basis of its authority. Hindu family law, which goes back at least 4, years and may be the oldest known system , is a branch of dharma —that is, the aggregate of religious, moral , social, and legal duties and obligations as developed by the Smriti s, or collections of the law. Islamic and Jewish family law also rests on spiritual authority.


Religious courts have had jurisdiction over family matters in various countries, and in some countries they still possess it. Some modern religious courts retain only their spiritual jurisdiction over marriage and divorce; their judgments have no standing in the secular law. In some Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christian marriages and also in Muslim and Jewish marriages, the application of the religious law is regarded as binding upon persons belonging to the faith. Where religious texts provide the literal authority for legal principles, as in Islamic law, it may be necessary to reinterpret the texts in order to reform the law.

This raises complex issues in those Muslim countries where there are movements for greater equality of the sexes.

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By the early 21st century, several jurisdictions, at both the national and subnational levels, had legalized same-sex marriage. In other jurisdictions, constitutional measures were adopted to prevent same-sex marriages from being sanctioned, or laws were enacted that refused to recognize such marriages performed elsewhere.

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Family law

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Page 1 of 2. Next page Economic aspects of family law. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Property law , principles, policies, and rules by which disputes over property are to be resolved and by which property transactions may be structured.

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What distinguishes property law from other kinds of law is that property law deals with the relationships between and among members of a society with respect to…. Civil marriage was instituted in parallel with religious marriage, the dowry system was abolished though marriages are still sometimes seen to some degree as economic alliances in theory , divorce was made easier, and the hitherto dominant position of the father in the family…. Easy access to polygamy although the normal practice in Islamic society has always been that of monogamy and easy divorce…. Family law inheritance and succession In inheritance: Historical development In inheritance: Roman law legal systems civil law In civil law: The French system In civil law: The main categories of German private law constitutional law In constitutional law: Family law In Islam: Family life Roman law In Roman law: Family Soviet law In Soviet law: Family law View More.

Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback. Introduction Family groups The two-parent family The one-parent family Legal consequences of marriage Children Legitimacy Adoption Education Decision making Questions of custody Marriage Marriage as a transfer of dependence Marriage as a voluntary relationship Legal limitations on marriage Engagement The public interest Age Relationship Religion Gender Economic aspects of family law The property of married couples Maintenance and support Separation of marital property Community property Tort actions between spouses Co-ownership Divorce Family courts.