Jill Hasday, law professor at the University of Minnesota, is urging her colleagues, practitioners, courts and policy makers to look at family law in a new light in her new book Family Law Reimagined.
“I wrote the book because family law is one of the most significant and far-reaching areas of the law. It touches central aspects of our lives, including our most intimate relationships, our children, and our wealth. But family law has attracted much less attention than it deserves. I wanted to direct more scrutiny to a field that remains relatively understudied,” Hasday said.
In her book, Hasday attacks common misconceptions about family law, such as the idea that family law is produced only by state and local governments, not the federal government. She also highlights areas of family law that need to be addressed, like the lack of legal protections for sibling relationships.
Hasday works to expose inequities within existing laws and programs that are not thought of as falling under the purview of family law. She notes that welfare law regulating poor families is typically not understood to be part of family law and that poor families are subject to much more intrusive regulation than other families. For example, families collecting Social Security benefits are treated far differently than those collecting benefits geared toward poorer families through programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
“In both situations, the government provides benefits to family members whose main or only wage earner has become incapacitated, stopped working, or died. But with Social Security, a family member collects benefits automatically simply based on his family status. There is no inquiry into whether the person was a supportive spouse, a helpful parent, or a responsible child. In contrast, the TANF program rigorously scrutinizes family relationships and actively intervenes in family life.”
Hasday said she hopes to change the way courts and legislatures look at family law, and also how family law is taught in law schools. Family Law Reimagined is available now.