Module code: LAW3144

Module Overview

This module will require students to engage and refine key skills developed throughout the first two years of their degree and to apply those skills at an advanced level. The key skills include legal research (including using digital research tools), case reading, critical thinking and analyses, precision in the use of language, effective and accurate communication, and time management.

This module provides the framework for understanding how the law recognizes and regulates intimate personal relationships and mediates relationships of affinity and consanguinity. Family law provides the legal framework for the establishment and dissolution of marriage and civil partnerships, the imposition of legal consequences within marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation, the financial implications upon the dissolution of those relationships. Family Law also provides the framework for students to understand how the law defines, regulates and mediates the relationship between parent, child, other persons with a relationship nexus to the child and the State. The concept of a child's welfare being paramount informs and constructs the legal framework for the parenting and regulation of parenting of children and forms the core consideration in the resolution of private and public authority disputes over the upbringing of children. The study of this module will enable students to critically assess the purpose of family law and the extent to which laws should regulate and influence adult interpersonal relationships and the parent-child relationship.

Students will also gain significant practical insight into how to identify and resolve potential legal problems that may arise during professional family law practice. Real world examples and contemporary trends in family demographics are explored to encourage students to relate practically to the module content and to emphasise the relevance to lived experience.

Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

THANAPAL Vickie (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 30

ECTS Credits: 15

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 20

Independent Learning Hours: 100

Lecture Hours: 44

Guided Learning: 92

Captured Content: 44

Module Availability

Year long

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

  • History and development of family law: themes and trends

  • The law governing the formation of marriage (including same-sex marriage) and civil partnership

  • The law of nullity

  • The law governing divorce and dissolution

  • Cohabitation

  • Determination of financial provision upon separation, divorce and dissolution

  • The role of child support

  • Family Law's response to the problem of domestic violence

  • Discretionary power of the courts under Inheritance (Provisions of Family and Dependents) Act 1975

  • Defining the concepts of parentage, parenthood and parental responsibility in relation to a child

  • Determination of parentage (natural conception + assisted reproduction)

  • Status, Parents and Parental Responsibility

  • The Welfare Principle

  • Resolution of private disputes concerning children

  • Wardship and the Inherent Jurisdiction

  • Children's Rights

  • Child Protection and legal principles governing exercise of state powers in relation to compulsory measures

  • The law's response to the concept of adoption

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination Online 4 hour online exam 50
Coursework Research Essay 40
Attendance only Skills Exercise 10

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate: that they have achieved the module learning outcomes and, by association, developed employability skills, digital capabilities, and resourcefulness and resilience in addition to the other stated module attributes.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A 4-hour online exam where students will have to answer two problem questions. The questions will be designed to test students' ability to identify possible legal questions or disputes arising from a complex fact pattern, identify, assess and apply relevant sources of law to resolve problems and to construct logical and legally reasoned solutions within a time constrained environment. 

  • A research essay project where students will have to submit a 2500-word essay on an aspect of Family Law that they have identified and defined as a research topic. This project will require students to demonstrate the ability to clearly identify an area of contention, uncertainty or fluidity in the law and the ability to exercise independence, resourcefulness, and ownership of learning in obtaining and evaluating appropriate sources to use in their research. The research project will allow students to evidence critical advanced understanding of key debates in Family Law and to demonstrate ability to structure convincing and academically reasoned responses to a thesis position they have defined. 

  • An ADR exercise where students will conduct a negotiation/mediation session with each other. All students will be required to write up their session outcome and to complete a reflection sheet on the exercise. The exercise will allow students to consider and engage with key professional (conciliation, negotiation, fact finding, collaboration) skills inherent in Family Law practice and will complement the essential legal problem-solving skills that they will be developing concurrently in this module and throughout their degree.


Formative assessment: - Informal formative assessment consisting of tutor and peer feedback is conducted throughout the module during the workshops when students have the opportunity to engage in presenting their prepared solutions to the workshops¿ problem-based tasks. Students will also be set one formal formative assessment prior to the final summative assessment. The formal formative assessment is intended to allow students to reflect on the informal feedback received during workshops and the feedforward from their previous summative assessments in other modules and to engage that information in improving their work and meeting advanced criteria stated in the grade descriptors. - Students will also be required to submit an outline of their intended research essay (including essay title, identification of research problem or scope, key argument, and research sources) by the start of semester two. They will receive feedback on their research structure and development which they can reflect upon and implement in completing their final piece for submission. Feedback - Informal tutor and peer feedback provided during workshops - Formal written feedback and provisional mark provided by tutors for formative assessment - Formal written feedback provided for submission of research essay draft/outline - Verbal feedback provided by a member of module teaching team by appointment for further clarification of feedback

Module aims

  • To cultivate a nuanced understanding of the way in which family law operates in England and Wales and where appropriate throughout the UK, in terms of its purpose and scope
  • To identify and critically assess and apply the laws governing the formation and termination of marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation
  • To understand the ambit and nature of the law in determining financial provision and child support following breakdown of marriage/civil partnership and to be able to apply the key principles developed by the courts
  • To understand and apply the elements of family law in regulating occupation of the family home and prevention of molestation in instances of domestic abuse
  • To achieve practical and critical understanding of the scope and extent of courts' discretionary powers under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975
  • To provide a practical and critical understanding of the way in which the welfare of children and other associated principles are prioritised and engaged in the resolution of private disputes over children
  • To critically assess the theories underlying the concept of children's rights
  • To identify and critically assess and apply the law and associate judicial principle to complex disputes over parentage, parenthood and parental responsibility and matters involving the upbringing of children
  • To critically assess the ambit and nature of the legal obligations and processes regulating child protection and the mechanisms for appeal within that process
  • To apply and critically assess the efficacy of the law and policies regulating adoption of children

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate a critical understanding of the doctrine, concepts, policies and inherent values which inform English and Welsh Family Law and of basic relevant comparative doctrines and concepts in other jurisdictions CKPT
002 To understand and critically engage with the interpretation and operation of the core statutory and judicial principles in solving complex problems CKPT
003 Critically engage in reflection and discussions regarding competing policy concerns and social values which inform Family law and its development CKPT
004 Critically engage in scholarly debate with advanced and reasoned analyses to provide evaluation on notable trends and significant debates and reforms within Family Law CKPT
005 Critically engage with and apply knowledge of the primary and secondary legal authorities to solve complex problems and construct convincing answers to complex problem questions exploring the tensions and lacunae within the objectives and values of Family law CKPT
006 Demonstrate ability to engage in practical and reasoned negotiation to achieve logical and collaborative solutions CKPT
007 Demonstrate ability to identify and critically analyse (through independent research and reasoning) issues of legal contention, ambiguity or lacunae in Family law CKPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to: ensure that students achieve the stated module learning outcomes and develop competencies through their learning that will enhance the University's core educational objectives of employability, digital capabilities, global and cultural intelligence, and resourcefulness and resilience.

The learning and teaching methodology is designed around large group lectures and smaller group workshops. Lectures will introduce the topics by presenting systematically the key concepts and giving a general overview of the fundamental legal principles of each topic. The lectures are structured around a narrative and give guidance on how to analyse the law and in some instances give specific examples of how the law is applied and its effect. The lectures will be supplemented by captured content and some lectures will require students to attend having prepared by engaging with digital pre-recorded conceptual material that will form the framework for their understanding of the live session. The lectures will not give a full description of, or appreciation of, the law and will be complemented by workshop sessions.

The workshop sessions are reserved for active learning and will enhance understanding by allowing students to learn in greater breadth and depth to satisfy the learning outcomes. During the workshops, students will engage in consideration and discussion of two categories of tasks: i) problem-based questions of advanced complexity and where they will be required to present solutions, supported with reasoned authority and critical analysis of the law, and ii) questions of a conceptual, normative or empirical nature where they will be required to utilise advanced reasoning and research skills to structure a concise and cogent position and to defend it. The workshops provide a crucial space for students to apply their learning in a practical way and ask and develop directed questions to aid their understanding of the subject matter and receive feedback on their learning. Typically, the workshop groups will each contain c.45 students, who will work in small groups to research the law and present answers, demonstrating self-direction and originality, of both approach and resolution. In these sessions, students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge of the module content, their ability to present a coherent argument and assess the validity of arguments presented by others, and to facilitate their critical understanding of the legal rules and principles studied by applying them to hypothetical problems based on practical disputes that they may encounter in professional practice.

The sessions will also challenge students to critically consider the role of Family Law in its efficacy of regulating and mediating family interpersonal relationships between adults and between parent/carer and child, the growing influence of the children¿s rights movement and to identify areas where the law should evolve or be reformed. Where relevant, students are expected to engage in wider research about strands of family law jurisprudence or cultural influences from other jurisdictions and to incorporate such research meaningfully in their discussions and analyses to develop a global understanding and outlook. The workshops will also include a weighted ADR exercise which will require students to develop and display the key professional skills increasingly being utilised in the legal profession. These sessions will challenge students to take ownership of their learning through engaging with their peers and through collaboration and self-direction to identify and utilize the skills essential in successful ADR. The exercises are a novel and valuable component in the module and demonstrate how the legal profession operates in settings outside of the traditional adversarial court-based processes and contribute directly to the learning objectives of developing employability and building resilience and resourcefulness.

Students should be prepared to field questions during their presentations and discussions, either from their tutor or from fellow students, and to follow up the presentations with discussion and feedback. Presentations may be required in any form, including advocacy for a specific party in a problem question or argument for or against a specific proposition. The workshops are intended to be active learning sessions which will allow students to develop key transferable professional skills with aid employability (presentation and communication technique, teamwork, confidence in public speaking, constructing feedback and fostering independence and ownership). Students are further provided with weekly guided learning in the form of recommended reading. These readings are classified as essential reading which is mandatory for minimum understanding and basic workshop participation, and further reading in the form of academic per reviewed articles linked directly to specific ¿essay style¿ questions which will aid deeper and more critical understanding and enhance students¿ ability to participate in the workshops at an advanced level.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: LAW3144

Other information

The School of Law is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: The module provides students with core knowledge of the key rules of law and judicial principles framing the regulation and mediation of familial interpersonal relationships in England and Wales. Family Law is a key area of work in most general practices. Students are expected to develop and refine their problem-solving skills and to engage in structuring their advice and analyses in a practical way to a professional standard with clear reference and support from primary and secondary legal sources. The assessment tests students on key aspects which are reflective of skills expected in the workplace environment. The examination will allow students to develop and demonstrate their ability to engage with complex and possibly opaque and fluid facts and with issues that invite a diverse and open-ended range of responses. The research essay will allow students to exercise their judgement and require them to display ownership and maturity in learning as they self-determine the scope and structure of their project and are responsible for ensuring that their sources are sufficient and sound to support their thesis. The ADR exercise engages skills that are inherent and authentic in legal practice. The use of negotiated settlements and mediation is commonplace in civil justice and especially in the practice of Family Law. This assessment provides the opportunity for students to consider and practice these skills in the classroom environment prior to vocational training.

Digital Capabilities: As with all modules, students are expected to engage with material online through effective navigation of the Surreylearn VLE and online legal databases provided by the University library. Students will use digital technology to prepare their and submit their assessments and are likely to use digital technology in aiding their preparations and presentations during the workshop sessions.

Global and Cultural Capabilities: While the module content focuses on English and Welsh Family Law in the main, the universal nature of the family and our understandings and values which shape the law in relation to the family allow for the development of legal principles that can apply to or aid understanding of Family Law in other jurisdictions. Some fundamental concepts such as marriage, divorce, the parent/child relationship and inheritance are understood and operated internationally and have the capability to impact the lived experiences of students and their families even outside of professional practice. Other fundamental concepts such as child protection, adoption and child autonomy in decision making are understood and operated internationally and the numerous values which inform cultural norms in relationships to understanding the state of childhood and relationships push students to look beyond their personal experience and understanding and to gain awareness and insight on the multitude of convergences and divergences at play. The skills developed through the ADR simulations allow students to build fundamental skills (conciliation, fact finding, negotiation, collaboration) which are globally useful in cultivating and maintaining interpersonal relations and for understanding and navigating different cultures. The workshops sessions require students to collaborate and engage effectively to evaluate and provide feedback to each other's work and will allow them the space and opportunity to interact, communicate and build relationships with peers from diverse backgrounds and in a way that respects and promotes the interests of cultural groups and individual rights.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: The learning teaching and assessment strategy for this module has been designed to encourage active learning through participation, community building, peer support and reflective practice. Students will draw on individual and collective resourcefulness to design practical and critically reasoned solutions to the challenges raised by the legal issues or normative thesis within the workshop problem tasks. Resilience and resourcefulness are further integrated within the module through the assessment strategy which requires students to complete coursework on a topic of their own choosing. Students will be able to undertake self-assessment, engage in open ended inquiry and to make and defend their own choices and to determine and manage suitable tasks in the completion of the coursework. The simulation exercise will also build and utilize resourcefulness and resilience by requiring students to construct and adapt strategies in real time and where unknown and unpredictable variables may arise in course of the task. The exercise will also assist in building students¿ confidence in their ability to make independent decisions and to reflect and take ownership of the results arising. Students are encouraged to reflect on feedback and feedforward and to engage with constructive comments and to take ownership of their learning. Formative assessment and feedback provide an opportunity for students to fail or make errors in a ¿safe¿ environment and to learn from experience and practical application building confidence and self-efficacy. The formative and summative assessments in this module require students to develop and apply techniques that feedforward to assessments within the module and to demonstrate initiative and ownership by extending those skills to the learning and assessment tasks of other modules within the programme.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Law with International Relations LLB (Hons)(YEAR LONG) Year-long Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law with Criminology LLB (Hons)(YEAR LONG) Year-long Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law LLB (Hons)(YEAR LONG) Year-long Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (Law and Technology Pathway) LLB (Hons)(YEAR LONG) Year-long Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (Philosophy, Politics and Law Pathway) LLB (Hons)(YEAR LONG) Year-long Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (Law, Environment and Sustainability Pathway) LLB (Hons)(YEAR LONG) Year-long Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.