Family Law: Meaning and Significance

Every family has some disputes and issues related to marriage, divorce, child custody, property, business, etc. so, to regulate and curve these issues based on their customs and traditions and govern their all such affairs, the Family laws have been evolved. Even though the legal definition of a family does not include individuals who are not married, unmarried couples and their children, if any, are frequently included in family law. There are also several situations where a party not normally involved in parent−child relationships may do so. Adoptions and situations where someone other than the child's parent wants to have certain rights to the child's custody or guardianship are examples of this. Matrimonial litigation has been on the rise since the introduction of the nuclear family system, and it has had a very negative impact on the parties, their children, and the entire family.

Good conscience, equity and justice are crucial sources in family law, and numerous reforming laws and judicial rulings have also been founded on them. The modern, fundamental, and crucial sources of law are acts passed by state and federal legislatures. The goal of family law is to establish accountability for all obligations, including those owed by persons to one another and the obligations of communities, states, and families to one another.

Major Areas of Family Laws

Some of the significant areas of family laws are −


A social and legal relationship build with the commitment to live entirely life together and will take each other’s responsibility between a man and a woman is known as marriage. Through this institution, the spouses establish kinship. A social organisation between those who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption is known as kinship. Because both spouses have the right to each other's companionship and conjugal rights—mutual rights and benefits between two people that result from the status of being married. Moreover, marriage is a social relationship and responsibility. Affection, companionship, cohabitation, shared property rights, and sexual connections are some of these rights and advantages. If one of the spouses withdraws from the other's social and emotional company without good reason (i.e., without using sound judgement that is just, fair, and rational), the aggrieved party may seek redress in court. In such cases, the court may direct the accused spouse to return with the other spouse their matrimonial home, which is called as the restitution of conjugal rights.

Monogamy, or a partnership between one woman and one man, is the foundation of the vast majority of marriages. Some communities have also permitted polygamous unions, which are plural marriages with either multiple husbands or multiple wives as spouses or multiple spouses.


A marriage is characterized as social institution. Its defence and preservation serve social interests. However, there are situations when the parties' marriage cannot be maintained. As a result, the idea of divorce developed. 

Divorces defines, the dissolution of a marital union. If the relationship between a husband and his wife is broken and no chance to correct it, in such a case they can get separated, but they cannot do it own their own rather they need court’s approval. The respective court gives divorce decree and the status of husband and wife ends.

In India, people who practise different religions are subject to varying divorce rules. Hindu divorce is governed under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. Divorce among Parsis is governed by the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936. Christian divorce is governed under the Indian Divorce Act of 1869. Muslims are regulated by their religious texts rather than a set of laws that govern marriage and divorce. 

A divorce by decree of the court is necessary to dissolve a marriage. Muslims, however, are an exception to this, but now they also need court’s approval.


The act of taking someone’s child with the intention to nurture and care as he/she is his/her own child is known as adoption. But it has to be done legally or procedure defined by the law. It is the process used to create a legal partnership between the fostering parents and the child. Additionally, as a practise whereby people raise children who weren't born to them as a member of their family. The primary goals of adoption in the past were to ensure the fulfilment of funeral rites and to ensure one's lineage. The Hindu Adoption and Child Welfare Act is the only law in India that regulates adoption. The 1956 Maintenance Act's scope is restricted to Hindus alone. There is no law on adoption for Christians, Parsis, and Muslims. A person belonging to these communities has to get himself appointed as guardian under the Guardians and Wads Act, 1890. This Act applies to all communities and castes.

Custody and Guardianship

A guardian is someone who is responsible for the care and control of a minor's (someone under the age of 18) person (in terms of their body) or property (estate or wealth of a minor). Among these rights is the right to custody and guardianship, which are used to decide how the child will be raised in terms of religion, education, and other factors like the distribution of assets, etc. A guardian has a responsibility to act in the minor's best interests. When it comes to decisions about child custody and guardianship, the court's top priority is the kid's wellbeing. The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, was passed during the British era.

A guardian may have de−jure (legally recognised authority) or de−facto (power exercised without formal legal recognition) status. There are three different sorts of de−jure guardians− natural guardians (by birth), testamentary guardians (assigned by will), and certificated guardians (appointed by the court in accordance with the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890).

Inheritances and Succession

One way to acquire property is through inheritance. Upon the owner's passing, all rights to the property that belonged to the deceased are divided into two categories− (1) inheritable rights and (2) uninheritable rights. If the owner of the property dies, it may be inherited primarily among his/her children. It continues to function even after the owner's passing and passes to his legal heirs; if he passes away along with it, it cannot be inherited. Generally speaking, personal rights (rights linked to the person and attached to the property, such as debts) cannot be inherited because they expire with the death of the person, although proprietary rights (rights attached to the property) can.

There are two types of succession (devolution of the property) − first one is intestate succession and second one is testamentary succession. In an intestate succession, ownership of the property passes in accordance with the rules or practises that govern the deceased. The individuals to whom the property passes are referred to as the decedent's heirs. In testamentary succession, the law gives a person the power to decide how to dispose of the assets he leaves behind after his or her death while he or she is still alive. The law upholds the decedent's wishes and ensures that they are carried out (to compel adherence to that will). A person is said to have made a will if they use this method to decide how their property will be distributed. This method of deciding how to dispose of property has been adopted by various legal systems.

There is no codified law for Muslims in the area of succession. They are governed by their religious texts.


Ultimately, the burdensome task of writing the code will go to the legislators. Law and religion will need to progress together. In country like India, every religious community has their own ways of dealing such family issues; so, such rules are covered under personal law system. This is the reason that, despite of its diversity, India is united. Although times have changed, personal laws did not. Finding remedies on family related disputes, case−by−case basis is a huge undertaking for the Indian courts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Family Law?

Family law is the legislation that governs and regulates family affairs such as family business, family property, marriage, adoption, etc.

Q. Who is a Spouse?

A person may be referred to as a spouse if they fulfil any of the following conditions −

  • married to another person;

  • in a marriage−like relationship with another person for two years or more (commonly referred to as living "common−law" or being in a "common−law relationship," or being a "common−law spouse)";

  • in a marriage−like relationship with another person for less than two years, but who has a biological or adopted child with that person.

Q. What is the difference between "divorce" and "dissolution of marriage?"

None. "Divorce" has had a negative flavor to it, and effectively, a marriage between two people is dissolved. Connecticut's (in the United States) statutes do not use the word "divorce" at any point. Because divorce is the term still most commonly used, we use it interchangeably with dissolution of marriage.

Q. What is meant by "joint custody?"

It means that both parents have equal rights in making decisions for their children, especially in the areas of education, religious upbringing, and major health considerations.

Q. What are the major types of family law?

Following are the major types of family law −

  • Property Law;

  • Marriage and Divorce Law; and

  • Adoption Law.