September 30, 2014

Family law deals with the regulation of the most sensitive relationships in our lives—those between wives and husbands, between parents and children, and between people who share a household. Family law regulates entry into family status relationships, such as marriage, and the ways to get out of them, such as divorce. It regulates the ongoing nature of those relationships including duties, obligations, rights, and privileges vested in the members of a family by virtue of their relationships with one another.

Generally, state domestic relations law balances two distinct and opposite ends of liberty interests, both of which are of paramount importance to the state: the preservation of family privacy and the protection of individual members of a family. The competition between these two positions has been highlighted in the wake of Roe v. Wade. Family law has experienced some dramatic changes in the forty years since this landmark decision. The ease of obtaining a divorce has increased, while the statutory requirements for entering into marriage are undergoing alteration, and more individuals are opting out of marriage in favor of cohabitation. Parenting rights and duties have changed, and rights and privileges of children have been altered. This Article examines whether, how, and why any of those changes are related to Roe.