The Changing Concept of ‘Family’ and Challenges for Domestic Family Law
Edited by Jens M. Scherpe
Chapter 3: The changing concept of ‘family’ and challenges for family law in France
The concept of family has evolved since the 1970s to encompass new relationships and it has been reshaped by continuous legal evolution. Legal provisions generally come to reflect and support changes in society and in societal expectations, albeit often in slow motion. If at its origin the French family was embodied in one single individual, the Roman law pater familias, the trend of legal evolution over the last 50 years has been firstly the constant individualization of the family members and secondly the strengthened protection of their particular rights and interests. Gender equality was on the agenda, and in the 1970s equal rights in the administration of matrimonial property and in the exercise of parental responsibility were granted to women and mothers. With the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the parent-child relationship has been reinterpreted. In the mainstream of this Convention the individuality of the child within its own family became crucial: while still a subject of care and protection, his or her individuality is now acknowledged. The child has been recognised the right to express his/her own wishes and feelings, as well as the possibility (to some extent) to exercise specific rights, as an equal to adults, without parental legal representation. More recently, the growing claim for rights and equality in the family sphere has shifted from the individuals constituting the family to the couple as an autonomous entity.
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