Legislation regarding family issues plays a critical role in the upbringing of healthy society. Because family is mostly regarded as a social unit, legal protection should be present to develop law-abiding individuals living in good families. The USA is the country where family laws have acquired particular importance. Specifically, the US legal norms protect single mothers and their children by providing them material support and strong laws. The legislative system in the USA concerning family law is one of the best as it is based on recognition of a woman’s social role as a mother and wife being equal to that of a man.

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The history of family legislation dates back to the Reformation years. At this time, religion protected marriage as a unity approved by the God and concerned only hereditary issues. With the growth of colonization, the laws developed as well. Previously, family laws protected men who had property. Women experienced suppression and had fewer custody rights. In most cases, children had to live with fathers after divorce though they needed mothers more. Nowadays, the laws evolved in favor of women who received the right to vote and bring up children. The men have to pay aliments to maintain the livelihood of their children. This is due to the fact that the frequency of divorces has increased and not only because of adultery but also irresponsibility of men, addiction problems or differences in life position of each spouse. As a consequence, separation and individualization peculiar for the American society impacts the increasing rates of divorces and children have to grow in single parent families. For this reason, changes in the family law should direct on protection of children and offering them a possibility to socialize better without having difficulties because of the quarrels between parents. Thus, the US family laws guarantee legal and social security to mothers and children after divorce and rank the marriage institute over other legislative concepts emphasizing marriage as a constitutional right and family as a social unit whose welfare is vital to create a strong state.

Historical and Social Background of the Family Legislation in the USA

Better living for future generation is the central task for the US family laws. Legal norms issued in different ties regulate divorces, custody for children with parents and orphans, as well as anticipate the criminal responsibility for child abuse, violence against women, cybercrimes, and other offences. Family legislation incorporates numerous issues and the specialists able to resolve legal problems connected with family rights across the fields. The family laws also differ in each country and depend upon the living standard. The higher it is, the better support and workable legislation the families get.

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In this context, the US family history has taught the legislators to mark family unity as the highest social value as a society creator. Puritans put family laws on the basis of religion and separation from the Anglican Church. The resulting religious differences caused inequality in family laws in different states (Areen 31; Weisberg and Appleton 15). The increase in the number of divorces was drastic in the country and caused “marriage crisis.” Such a situation has led to adoption of unilateral “no-fault” divorce laws in the 1960s-1970s. The legal documents stated that the change in marriage commitment from permanent to almost-permanent disposable at will of either spouse (Wardle 2; Kim and Oka 232). However, democratization of the marriage laws did not help the US citizens avoid divorces.

Instead, avoiding marriages caused 70% wedding decrease in the 1935s-1960s. There has been six-fold increase in the number of children born from unmarried mothers (Wardle 6; Kourlis et al 356). The high degree of legal protection of marriage exemplifies numerous cases, like Maynard v. Hill with the note that “marriage as creating most important relation in life has more to do with the morals and civilization of people than any other institution” (Wardle 10). Furthermore, the overwhelming power of marriage overcame racial discrimination. Marriage permission for different racial representatives demonstrated the case Loving vs Virginia in 1967. Initial forbade for interracial marriage failed and the couple’s staying together as marriage is one of the highest constitutional rights. Apart from that, protection of sex minorities was a failing attempt to motivate to marry. The 2015 decision for Obegefell vs Hodges requested the states to vote for same-sex marriage. 31 states approved this decision that served as a leading factor towards disregard of the marriage (Wardle 10).

Implications of Social Phenomena in the US Family Laws

The US family laws also evolved based on the social phenomena which required the transformations in the sphere. Despite of the risks for worsening children’s socialization, success and career, more spouses divorce or think over alternative ways of common living. For instance, the cases of abuse, domestic violence and discrimination comprise the primary reasons for divorce. In most cases the victims of abuse are women. In the scope of the family laws, American women feel protected and the offender gets his punishment (Wilson 930). On the other hand, a conflicting individual unable to control aggression is impossible to change. For this reason, divorce seems the only way out for such a family that enables to avoid raising an aggressive child in further.

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In addition, contract cohabitation became preferable over the actual marriage. It is the legal document approving that the couple lives together, but objects the marital status because of different reasons. Couples living under such acts bring up children as single parents (Katz 3). Non-marital cohabitation is illegal in most states as living together anticipates intimate relation considered as fornication. Such relationship suppresses women rights and acquired much criticism. Besides, many children get emotional distress difficult to overcome if they grow in the family without marriage. Though the American legislation is on the side of mothers and gives custody to them, a child suffers the most when the parents separate (Maccoby, Depner and Mnookin 92).

Nevertheless, financial assistance offered to mothers is also motivating for the women to give birth to children. Some women developed a strategy to get money for childbirth and refuse to marry after detecting pregnancy. In particular, the US government program issues payments for each child per month which reaches $5000 per month in Chicago, Illinois, and each state determines the sums according to the cost of living (Chused 25; Wilson 927; Huntington 169). Taking into account that sums are close to average salary after tax, some women do have vested interest in giving birth to more children. As a result, the government supports single mothers the families with four or five children get more welfare payment than married couples with one or two children.

Moreover, custody issue follows each divorce. The right to bring up a child by either of the parents is the democratic solution accepted mutually by the family members through the lens of child’s interests. To make a child’s living and parental divorce experience less painful, there are various types of residential and legal custody allowing a child to see each of parents. Mother’s physical and legal custody is the traditional agreement anticipating sole responsibility for care alongside with the rights of custodial parent (Maccoby et al 94). The father attends his child on ‘reasonable’ basis. Mother’s physical custody with joint legal custody gives day-to-day responsibility for care to mother, but father is a participant of various vital decisions that impact the life of a child. Joint physical custody oversees giving equal physical ad legal rights to each parent.

At the same time, the highest democratic parameter is allowing the child to choose which parent to live with after divorce. The timeframe ranges from weeks or months to years. This type remains preferable in the majority of cases on divorce. However, the time spent with parents is not equal. Father’s physical custody assigns the primary rights to father and the child lives in his apartment. Mothers have visitation rights and sometimes joint legal custody (Maccoby et al 94). Therefore, such division simplifies the manner of post-divorce relationships for parents and children without restricting their rights and freedom.

In this way, the US family legislation is a powerful tool in regulating social life. It protects the victims and punishes the criminals committing violent acts against the families. Family laws protect mothers and stand the child’s interests in the choice to live with mother or father.

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Establishing the legal regulations for relationships between family members is a complicated issue which requires the correlation with the social trends. The increasing number of divorces shows that marriage should be conscious and determined action and legal norm rather than a religious one. Due to the evolution towards equality of men and women, laws can protect each side equally and provide necessary support for the victims. Raising the interests of children in choosing the parent to live with shows progress of the legislation towards meeting the society needs while eliminating the stress risks for children and providing better conditions for future families.

At the same time, increasing number of divorces shows that many disregard marriage as a social institute. After legalizing the one-sex marriages, as one of the causes, negative attitude to the concept has increased and less people tended to marry. Despite of encouraging for marriage and establishing legal protection, more families bring up their children as single parents, without realizing the process, and it causes stresses and creates risks for future socialization of a child and further creation of a family. Finally, while the dominant role of family and marriage is a peculiar feature of the American legislation, protection of each party’s rights is at its core.


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