Family law is the law relating to all aspects of family life, from what the law defines as a "family" to how a family is legally created and how a family may be legally dissolved. Therefore, the laws relating to marriage, parenthood and divorce are central to family law. Family law also addresses matters that may arise during family life. For example, family finances, child care, child protection and family disputes or domestic violence. Family law reflects social change so as our family lives change the law responds to this. Therefore, family law today also addresses issues such as relationships between children and unmarried or divorced parents, step families, financial agreements between divorced spouses and parenthood by artificial means.
Furthermore, family law has a normative role: it maintains dominant values concerning the family. This aspect of family law can be identified in the exclusive legal definition of marriage that prevents lawful same sex marriage, the legal construction of the "good mother" that perpetuates gender stereotypes and various law reform programmes that reflect dominant views as to what is a "good family".
Lastly, family law serves not only to regulate the family and to fulfil a normative function but also to offer some protection by the State for those who for whom the family is not a safe place. This latter function is most evident in the laws concerning child protection, State provided child care and provisions relating to domestic violence.