European Family Law Volume II
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European Family Law Volume II

The Changing Concept of ‘Family’ and Challenges for Domestic Family Law

Edited by Jens M. Scherpe

This four-volume set maps the emerging European family law. It is intended to serve as a resource for anyone interested in this area of law, as well as a basis for teaching on comparative and international family law courses. The first volume examines the impact of institutions and organisations on European family law. While there is no European body that could actually legislate definitively on family law, there are some institutions that have a direct impact on European family law, while the impact of others is more indirect. In the second volume the changing concept of ‘family’ and challenges for domestic family law are analysed in 21 different jurisdictions, in 16 chapters. All contributions look at ‘horizontal’ family law (the law concerning the relationships between adults), ‘vertical’ family law (the law concerning the relationships of adults and children) as well an ‘individual’ family law (the law on names and gender identity). In the third volume the contributions take a comparative view on specific issues from a European perspective. The fourth volume, which works as a stand-alone monograph, draws on all of the previous chapters, and discusses the present and future of European family law. It establishes areas where ‘institutional’ European family law exists – in the sense that there are binding legal rules for all European jurisdictions – for example, as a result of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. It also identifies areas where, as a result of common legal and social developments for ‘horizontal’, ‘vertical’ and ‘individual’ family law, an ‘organic’ European family law is emerging and suggests how family laws in Europe are going to develop in the future.
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Chapter 3: The changing concept of ‘family’ and challenges for family law in France

Laurence Francoz Terminal


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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