Family law: John and Sarah Case

The assignment is broken in to two parts:
– Part one comprises a critical essay (2250 words)
– Part two requires you to set out how the law and /or the state may intervene in a particular family scenario (750 words)

Weighting – 75% of the total marks 

Part One:

Consider by way of example the following statement:

“One of the most fundamental debates in family law is about how far the state should intervene in family life, rather than leaving people to make their own arrangements. The extent to which the law can exert a moral force in contemporary family life is closely tied to its willingness to intervene in family decision-making. The more emphasis is placed upon the privacy of the family unit, the more difficult it is for the state to enforce its normative standards and interests. The problem is particularly acute in the context of family breakdown. If the state is neutral, families can be left to settle their own problems. By contrast, if the state is committed to promoting, for example, a particular model for the division of family assets on divorce in order to protect particular family members, it may be expected to try and enforce its view of the ‘right’ or preferable outcome through the law. However, state intervention in family life has always been controversial.

. [t]he public interest in regulating the family is such that state intervention into the private realm will sometimes be justified. This will most often be the case when a family is in crisis, for example where children are being abused within the family home. The state may also have an interest in enforcing financial obligations between family members. The difficulty lies in deciding when the privacy of the family should be protected and when the public interest, whether social, economic or moral in nature, is sufficiently strong to merit intervention.”

Harris-Short, Miles and George, Family Law Text case and Materials, 3rd edition, Oxford, p22-23.

Critically analyse how the state regulates the family and how and why it seeks to intervene in family life.

Part Two:

The case of the Jones family

Consider the following facts

• John and Sarah divorce following a 20 year marriage. John moves to live with his girlfriend, whilst Sarah remains in the family home with the child of the family Jasper, who is 15.

• John and Sarah own their own home mortgage free. It is a very substantial property. Sarah is a home-maker and has not worked for many years. John is a successful solicitor earing a very substantial income. Sarah believes she should keep the family home and be maintained by John. She does not believe that she should have to work. 

• Jasper does not wish to see his father because John has been violent to his mother, Sarah and Sarah has denied John contact with Jasper. John denies any wrong doing and insists that he has a right spend time with Jasper. 

• The local authority is aware of the violence perpetrated by John against Sarah. They consider that Jasper has suffered significant emotional harm by witnessing this domestic abuse. The social workers believe that Sarah has failed to protect Jasper and they think that Jasper should live with another family. 

By reference to statutory material, set out how the law may regulate and/or the state may intervene in the family life of the John, Sarah and Jasper. You may refer to prominent case law where appropriate.

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