The Psychology of Family Law

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Bridges family law and current psychological research to shape understanding of legal doctrine and policy

Family law encompasses legislation related to domestic relationships—marriages, parenthood, civil unions, guardianship, and more. No other area of law touches so closely to home, or is changing at such a rapid pace—in fact, family law is so dynamic precisely because it is inextricably intertwined with psychological issues such as human behavior, attitudes, and social norms. However, although psychology and family law may seem a natural partnership, both fields have much to learn from each other. Our laws often fail to take into account our empirical knowledge of psychology, falling back instead on faulty assumptions about human behavior.

This book encourages our use of psychological research and methods to inform understandings of family law. It considers issues including child custody, intimate partner violence, marriage and divorce, and child and elder maltreatment. For each topic discussed, Eve Brank presents a case, statute, or legal principle that highlights the psychological issues involved, illuminating how psychological research either supports or opposes the legal principles in question, and placing particular emphasis on the areas that are still in need of further research.

The volume identifies areas where psychology practice and research already have been or could be useful in molding legal doctrine and policy, and by providing psychology researchers with new ideas for legally relevant research.


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Barriers to Marriage
Leading Up to Marriage and Family
Getting Being and Staying Married
Becoming a Parent and Making a Family
Parenthood and Other Caregiving
Dissolution of Marriage
Child Custody Visitation and Support
Intimate Partner Violence Child Maltreatment

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About the author (2019)

Eve M. Brank, J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology, Courtesy Professor of Law, and Director of the Center on Children, Families, and the Law at University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Linda J. Demaine is Professor of Law and Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar at Arizona State University.

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