European Family Law Volume III
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European Family Law Volume III

Family Law in a European Perspective

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: Unmarried cohabitation in a European perspective

Joanna Miles


Such is the current diversity of legally recognised family forms across Europe and beyond that it is necessary before embarking on any survey of this area to define the scope of the inquiry. Contemporary debates regarding family law and policy in the regulation of relationships between adults are dominated by two distinct but connected issues: (i) the treatment of same-sex couples; and (ii) the treatment of couples who have not formalised their relationship. The nature of the debate in relation to (ii) is complicated by the fact that a number of jurisdictions now allow at least some couples to formalise their relationships in institutions other than ‘marriage’: the advent of various schemes of registered partnership or other civil union (to use relatively neutral terminology) has resulted in a proliferation of formalised family forms and so an increasingly complex set of options for family regulation. This growth of new legal institutions has in large part been driven by issue (i): a concern to respond to the legal predicament of same-sex couples who are in most jurisdictions (for the time being at least) unable to formalise their relationship through marriage, traditionally defined. Meanwhile, others are concerned about the situation of opposite-sex couples (in particular) who have not married and so of individuals who are not subject to, and protected by, the regime of legal duties and rights attendant on that institution.

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