Most people are members of a family – by birth, marriage, adoption, foster care or living together. Family law is about matters like marriage, husbands and wives,parental rights and responsibilities, care and protection of children, foster care and adoption, divorce and death.
Traditionally, the idea of a family was of a working father, a mother working in the home and dependant children. But it is not so common to find this kind of family any more. For example, many married women go out to work, in some families, especially in the rural areas, the children also work to support the family, illegitimate children (children born out of marriage) and divorces mean that there are many ‘single-parent families’ and gay and lesbian couples can now legally form a civil union. It is hard to say what a typical South African family is.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantees non-discrimination and equality regardless of factors such as race, sex, gender, sexual preference, marriage and religion. This means that different types of families and marriages must be treated equally.
While this chapter covers all the aspects of family law listed above, it also looks at the law regarding sexual and domestic violence and child abuse and neglect.