Today's Modern Families Are Changing the Way the Law Works

It wouldn’t be difficult to surmise that the idea of a “typical American family” is an ever-changing concept. Thanks to the Internet, anyone can accurately trace the evolution of the concept of family and compare a certain pinpoint in time to today’s standards. At our country’s founding, a family unit was composed of a husband, wife, and their biological children. The husband was the primary breadwinner, with the wife staying home and doing household chores while raising their children. In today’s society, a family could be composed of two parents of the same sex, multiple adopted children, a single parent family, or two parents with no children. I’d like to say there’s a pretty big difference in comparison, specifically when considering the past 20 years. Interestingly enough, I’d also like to say that there’s an underlying red- thread that ties the evolution of the modern family and current family law. To keep up with the demand of change, more law practices are going to have to be knowledgeable on or practice family law in order to cater to their clients, or risk the possibility of firm abridgment. 

Over the past twenty years, two-parent households have grown smaller and both adults of the house have started working for an income. Since the 70’s, there have been higher rates of divorce, lower rates of marriages, and fewer divorced singles getting remarried. The millennial generation has prioritized differently than their predecessors, opting to delay marriage in order to pursue college and advanced degrees, and prolonging the decision to start families of their own. While it may not be a bad thing, millennials aredoing what they’re known to do best- messing with the way things have been for generations.  Now that we got those facts out of the way, there is a bit of silver lining to all of this. Time Magazine recently reported that the U.S. divorce rate has dropped for the third year in a row, marking the lowest percentage point America has seen in the last 40 years. It will probably be a while before we see a large enough jump to really be confident that the trend is indeed declining (going from 17.6% of 1000 married women in 2014 to 16.9% of 1000 married women in 2015), but hey, every one has to start somewhere. I believe that an increase in the age of younger couples getting married has contributed to the slight decrease in divorces in America. Younger generations entering into the work force now have the ability to earn an income to support an early marriage. Deciding to prolong families in order to first be financially stable has my generation looking towards the future with the best intentions for themselves and their families. 

When you think of family law, you may assume divorces are the overwhelming majority of cases, however in the future, I believe adoption will be the hidden giant. Not only that, since many states have passed regulations allowing the marriage of LGBT couples, the amount of children being adopted has increased. It is estimated that the total number of children living in America with at least one gay parent ranges from 6 to 14 million. An example of how socially progressive our judiciary system has become is in 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a decision regarding a gay couple’s adoption by the Alabama Supreme Court. In a nutshell, Alabama’s Supreme Court violated the full faith and credit clause by nullifying the legitimacy of a lesbian couple’s adopted children that was verified by the Georgia Supreme Court since Georgia recognizes the marriage of same sex couples. This is just one example of how the United States is reorganizing the court system for the benefit of evolving familiar standard. 

Another reason adoption is becoming popular is because of the amount of marriages occurring between couples of older age. Unfortunately this results in a decreased fertility rate, and gives couples fewer options in having children. Family law is a gateway for couples to achieve a dream that benefits both child and parent. Adoption is a beautiful gift that should not be taken lightly, nor should it be granted without serious consideration. Because of the changing times, adoption will continue to grow in America and become a leading niche in any law practice that truly wishes to benefit its clients. 

Child custody and its enforcement is a segment of family law that has changed tremendously over the years. Up until the 70’s, the tender years doctrine predominated child custody cases. For those not familiar with the tender years doctrine, it basically implied that the child or children being disputed over were better off living with their mother than the father. Now, the best interest of the child standard has replaced it and is determined by family law judges that have been specifically trained on the best interest of a child. Believe it or not, technology has actually been pivotal in child custody situations. Thanks to the Internet, parents and their children can stay connected through a process called “virtual visitation;” a court-approved way for parents to continue to see their kids through Facetime or Skype without the hassle of scheduling difficulties. Even children too young to actually use a phone can benefit from virtual visitation by being allowed to see and hear the other parent when visiting with another. 

In response to the evolving legislations regarding family law, our court systems have risen to the occasion on multiple fronts. However, to be our most efficient, we cannot stop when it comes to the domestic relations of families. A happy family is a healthy family; one that can inspire generations to come. We cannot hinder families because our ideals are anachronistically delayed. I believe that our judicial system is beginning to understand just how vital the American family is. Family law has been around for as long as the social construct of family has, and will continue to be. Though we may not always have the perfect solution for the issues that arise with family law, I believe many are striving daily for the betterment of those individuals most affected by it.  


This article was written by Meg Gambrill, one of Reid Law's 2018 summer interns. Meg is a senior at Auburn University, where she is studying Business Administration. She is interested pursuing corporate, entertainment, and family law. Meg can be contacted at