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Family Law
Wayne State University Law School
Findlater, Janet

A.     What is a family?
Blood relation or biological = consanguinity refers to blood relation
Legal definition—marriage, birth to a married couple, adoption = affinity refers to relations by marriage
Extended families
Some defined as husband, wife, and children (nuclear family)
Some consider many people as a family
If starting point is that a family is a couple
a.Poster getting married to have sex and produce children, than homosexual couples would not be included as a family.
Reasons people get married—to carry on the family name
Social expectations
Common residence
Sex—monogamous, legitimate, heterosexual
Who gets to decide who is family?
People involved
Society and social attitudes help dictates family definitions
Religious institutions
When do you have to decide who is in the family?
For legal purposes—the state decides. There are some minor differences between states as to who is your family.
a.Example: Different states define incest differently (minor differences).
Marriage as a Contract
State gets involved, than it is no longer private but considered public.
State determines who gets to get married because need to get a marriage license.
Determines who and when can get married.
Determines spoils of the marriage—after marriage ends—alimony, support, etc.
Contract always has three parties—the two getting married and the state.
Constitution is written for and confers rights upon individuals.
a.Justices fudge around this concept and how to define family.
b.      Socially we accept families to function in a certain way and accept Justices opinions.
How State/Government defines family [Alternative Families] Statutory interpretation:
a.Look to legislative intent or record.
b.      Court’s history—precedential interpretations of the statute
c.Plain meaning
d.      Look to other relevant statutes or on same topic or issue
e.If don’t have any of the above, make own interpretation.
B.     Communal Living Arrangements
f. Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas (p. 398)
                                                                                 i.            Commune for Zoning Purposes
                                                                               ii.            Belle Terre is a village that has restricted land use to one-family dwellings. Six unrelated students at a nearby University resided in the home and were given an ordinance (to vacate).
                                                                              iii.            Argument is function as a family: cook together, clean together, live as a unit and so function as a family.

                                                                           i.      Government alleged wanted to prevent fraud. However, this reason is not rational since it defeats the purpose of the Act.
                                                                                                                                     ii.      This statute does nothing to prevent fraud
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Statute takes service away from people it was created to aid.
h.Differences between Belle Terre and Moreno
                                                                                 i.            Based on the law, Belle Terre was found to have no rational basis and Moreno was found to have a rational basis.
                                                                               ii.            Context is the reason these cases came out differently, as it is in all family law cases.
In Belle, students had choice of where to live—Food is a necessity of life