chapter  13
10 Pages

Concluding thoughts: The enduring chaos of family law

ByHELEN RHOADES

In his classic 1998 article, ‘The normal chaos of family law’, John Dewar proposed that family law, insofar as it ‘deals in ideas of what families are, how their members should deal with each other, and what the role of law and the state should be with regard to them’, was fundamentally incoherent.1 According to Dewar’s assessment, this was not a negative feature, nor an indication of its failure as a legal system. Rather, he argued, this state of affairs was perfectly normal given the subject matter with which the law deals – intimate relationships – and the range of regulatory sites and policy aims involved. The chapters in this collection attest to the resilience of this complexity in English family law, despite the recent imposition of a rights framework. From the perspective of an Australian family law academic, whose national government is presently exploring the possibility of enacting human rights legislation,2 the analyses contained in this volume are instructive.3 Not only do they reveal the unsystematic and often limited effects of this development in England, they also offer important insights into the reasons for the apparently enduring chaos of family law.