Domestic Relations

Domestic Relations in the United States

An area of the law that involves family matters. Domestic relations issues affect many people and place substantial volume demands on civil courts. While family law covers both conditions for entering and terminating a marriage, it is the latter that produces those situations that require court intervention. Indeed, divorce cases often represent the largest single category of civil cases. Most states have attempted to lessen the adversarial character of divorce cases by moving to no-fault divorce. Rather than having to establish legal grounds for a divorce, the no-fault approach merely requires both parties to acknowledge the marriage is no longer viable. The no-fault approach, however, has not made other divorce-related issues, such as child custody, levels of child support, and access or visitation matters easier to resolve. On the contrary, disagreements over these matters frequently require extensive involvement of courts and administrative agencies established to support the courts in divorce cases. Once the issues are resolved, the courts retain jurisdiction to ensure that provisions of orders are fulfilled. Courts with jurisdiction over domestic relations matters also deal with paternity actions. In these cases, a claim is made that a man fathered an illegitimate child. If paternity is established, issues such as support are then addressed.

Analysis and Relevance

Domestic relations cases touch issues at the center of many people’s lives. Domestic relations may involve pleasant matters, such as the legal adoption of a child. Generally, however, courts with jurisdiction over domestic relations encounter distressed people looking to terminate the marital relationship or issues associated with that action. Normally, such matters are handled through a hearing process that does not involve a jury. In many jurisdictions, some form of mediation is undertaken before formal hearings, especially if minor children are involved. Once an order or decree is entered, courts retain supervisory authority over the case to ensure full compliance. Most states have established extensive bureaucracies designed to monitor timely payment of child support and the other conditions of the court’s judgment. If a party subsequently requests a change in one or more of the terms of custody, support, or visitation, the court normally will not act without a recommendation from a representative of this supporting bureaucracy.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Domestic Relations from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Domestic Relations in Juvenile Law

In this context, Domestic Relations information is available through this American legal Encyclopedia.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court or J&DR in Juvenile Law

In this context, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court or J&DR information is available through this American legal Encyclopedia.

Domestic Relations: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Domestic Relations. This part provides references, in relation to Domestic Relations, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Domestic Relations by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Domestic Relations and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Domestic Relations or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Domestic Relations and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Domestic Relations. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Domestic Relations should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Domestic Relations when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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