Family law (also called matrimonial law) is an area of the law that deals with family matters and domestic relations, including:
- Marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships
- Adoption and surrogacy
- Child abuse and child abduction
- The termination of relationships and ancillary matters, including divorce, annulment, property settlements, alimony, child custodyand visitation, child support and alimony awards
- Juvenile adjudication
- Paternity testing and paternity fraud
This list is not exhaustive and varies depending on jurisdiction. In many jurisdictions in the United States, the family courts see the most crowded dockets. Litigants representative of all social and economic classes are parties within the system.
For the conflict of laws elements dealing with transnational and interstate issues, see marriage (conflict), divorce (conflict) and nullity (conflict)
Matrimonial regimes, or marital property systems are systems of property ownership between spouses providing for the creation or absence of a marital estate, and if created, what properties are included in that estate, how and by whom it is managed, and how it will be divided and inherited at the end of the marriage. Matrimonial regimes are applied either by operation of law or by way of prenuptial agreement in civil-law countries, and depend on the lex domicilii of the spouses at the time of or immediately following the wedding. (See e.g. Quebec Civil Code and French Civil Code, arts. 431-492.). In Common law countries, the default and only matrimonial regime is separation of property, though some U.S. states, known as community property states, are an exception.
Civil-law and bijuridical jurisdictions, including Quebec, Louisiana, France, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and many others, have statutory default matrimonial regimes, in addition to or, in some cases, in lieu of regimes that can only be contracted by prenuptial agreements. Generally, couples marry into some form of community of property by default, or instead contract out under separation of property or some other regime through a prenuptial agreement passed before a Civil-law notary or other public officer solemnizing the marriage. Five countries, including the Netherlands, have signed on to the Hague Convention on the Law applicable to Matrimonial Property Regimes, which entered into force on 1 September 1992, which allows spouses to choose not only the regimes offered by their country, but also any regime in force in the country where at least one is a citizen or resident or where marital real estate is situated.