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Unit information: Family Law in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Family Law
Unit code LAWD20036
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Hitchings
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The Unit aims to develop students’ understanding of Family Law i.e. how the law regulates family relationships and the use of law to resolve disputes within families. The particular topics included relate to the creation and dissolution of family relationships (marriage, civil partnership and divorce) and parenthood (parentage, parental responsibility and children's rights). The unit will also address issues relating to the role of courts in family disputes such as contact after parental separation and protection of family members from violence. The unit will develop students’ skills in analysing and evaluating legal developments and policy initiatives relating to families.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

• Describe the legal provisions for the creation of family relationships, including relationships between parents, carers and children, and for the dissolution of marriage

• Summarise the way family law operates to resolve disputes about the care of children and relationships between adults, and to protect against domestic abuse.

• Describe the respective roles of solicitors, mediators and the courts in assisting the resolution of family disputes, by reference to case law, procedural guidance and empirical research literature

• Apply problem solving skills to issues in family law through analysis/synthesis, critical judgment and evaluation

Teaching details

23 lectures, including two enhancement lectures and a revision lecture, plus 7 tutorials

Assessment Details

1 x formative assessment (submitted for marking), plus additional informal formative feedback opportunities as indicated by the unit coordinator.

Formative assessments do not count towards final mark and can be optional.

1x summative assessment: 1 x 3 hour exam in the Summer Exam Period. Summative assessments do count towards the final mark.

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

Because Family Law is a fast moving subject you should only use the latest edition. Page references will be given for the texts listed below.

  • Rebecca Probert, Cretney and Probert’s Family Law (9th ed, Sweet and Maxwell, 2015)
  • Jonathan Herring, Family Law (7th ed, Longman, 2015)
  • Gillian Douglas and Nigel Lowe, Bromley’s Family Law (11th ed Oxford 2015)

Other books you may be referred to from time to time or otherwise wish to consult include:

  • Herring, Probert and Gilmore, Great Debates in Family Law (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
  • George, Ideas and Debates in Family Law (Hart, 2012)
  • Cretney, Family Law in the Twentieth Century (OUP, 2005)
  • Kanagas and Diduck, Family Law, Gender and the State (Hart, 2012)
  • Fortin, Children’s Rights and the Developing Law (LexisNexis, 3rd ed 2009)
  • Harris-Short, Miles and George, Family Law (3rd OUP 2015) (a text and materials book)
  • Bainham and Gilmore, Children the modern law (Jordans 4th ed 2013)
  • Eekelaar et al, Family Lawyers (Hart, 2000)
  • Maclean and Eekelaar, Family Law Advocacy (Hart 2009)
  • Eekelaar and Maclean, Family Justice (Hart 2013)