The ‘nuclear family’ and modern society
I have been asked to write a blog post on an area of law that I am interested in and for this reason I have chosen family law. Family law arguably, is an area of law that effects everyone and has the most social impact. The law has changed in a positive way in recent years and a lot of this is dependant on the views of society. We as a society are becoming more accepting and as a member of the ever so talked about ‘millennial generation’ I would like to think that I am at the forefront of advocating this change.
With these changes come changes to family structures and in the last decade cohabitation has become the fastest growing family type in the UK, having doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2016. Similarly we have seen an increase in lone parenting in Scotland with 19% of households in Scotland being lone parent families. However, although society is shifting away from ‘traditional’ values such as marriage and the ‘nuclear family’ this is does not mean that we are subjecting children to poorer parenting or values. Rather we are accepting that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to families and society and the law especially is better to accept and embrace these changes than attempt to preserve a dying ideal of the ‘nuclear family’.
My blog post has been inspired by two separate court rulings, briefly the ruling in Steinfeld and Another v Secretary of State for Education and the ruling by Lord Justice Munby in Re Z (A Child) (Surrogate Father: Parental Order). Both cases amounted to declarations of incompatibility with article 14 in conjunction with article 8, right to private and family life, of the convention. The Steinfeld case focused on the unwillingness of the law to recognise other forms of relationships and the desire to preserve ‘traditional values’ i.e. marriage. Whereas Re Z focused on the undesirable nature of single applicants for parental orders in surrogacies.
However, it wasn’t without a fight that these rulings came about and it would seem that the unwillingness to call for change stems from the desire to preserve the so-called nuclear family. There is nothing to say that a single applicant cannot be a suitable parent for a child born from surrogacy, just like there is nothing wrong with a lone parent adopting. However, the law is willing to accept the latter but not the former. It would go without question that the same level of parenting is expected in both and just because the child from adoption is not genetically related to the applicant does not mean that the level of parenting differs. By not allowing single applicants in surrogacy what is the law saying about the capabilities of single parents? And by not accepting different forms of relationships what is the law saying about those relationships? That both are unequal or inadequate compared with heterosexual married couples? Whether it is accepted or not society is changing and although progress has been made to welcome these changes, will Government implement these changes into legislation? I for one shall be eagerly awaiting such changes.
This blog post was written by Kirsty Martin, LLB (Hons), currently undertaking the Diploma in Professional Legal PracticeView all →