December 9, 2002
AMERICAN LAW INSTITUTE'S PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF FAMILY DISSOLUTION
By: Susan Price-Livingston, Associate Attorney
You asked for a summary of the American Law Institute's (ALI) recently released Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution: Analysis and Recommendations. You were particularly interested in topics relating to same-sex couples.
The ALI, comprised of prominent lawyers, judges, and law school professors, is an organization that seeks to clarify and better adapt laws to social needs. Among other things, it developed Restatements of the Law in a number of disciplines, including torts, property, agency, and contracts.
After 10 years of study, the ALI recently published Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution. Its stated purpose is to create a coherent legal framework, sensitive to both the traditional value systems within which most families are formed and the nontraditional realities and expectations of other families. The book includes chapters on:
1. custodial and decision making responsibility for children;
2. child support;
3. distribution of marital property;
4. compensatory payments to former spouses;
5. domestic partners; and
6. premarital, marital, and separation agreements.
The Principles address two areas that particularly concern same-sex relationships. First is its recommendation that courts not consider a person's sexual orientation when making child custody decisions. And the second is that unmarried couples who break up after long relationships should be covered under traditional divorce, alimony, and child support laws. The latter recommendation applies equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.