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Family law

This is an engaging module where you'll learn about the key areas of family law in England and Wales. By employing a range of activities, it will expose you to interesting issues and debates concerning families and children, such as the medical rights of children and children’s rights. You'll examine how family law responds to change in society and consider how the law may regulate or intervene in our private lives. During the module, there will be an opportunity to understand how the knowledge and skills that you gain are used in legal practice as well as other employment settings.

What you will study

This module is comprised of three blocks of study.

Block 1: Recognition
In this block you will:
  • explore the differences in families. Through examples of family law, you're introduced to the underlying themes of the module that will be developed in the later units
  • examine the beginning and ending of adult relationships, including recent reforms in the areas of same-sex relationships and divorce law  
  • discover the role of the law in the practical and financial arrangements which take place at the end of adult relationships, including child support
  • consider domestic abuse in a family law context, detailing the changing definition of abuse and family law remedies that may be available.
Block 2: Rights
In this block you will:
  • address private child law, examining the legal framework for resolving disputes over decisions or arrangements concerning children
  • be introduced to the medical treatment of children and children’s rights. You'll also address issues of consent, capacity and rights.
Block 3: Regulation
In this block you will:
  • examine public child law and focus upon child protection, in doing so you'll consider when and how the state intervenes in private family life
  • explore the legal framework surrounding assisted reproduction and surrogacy, examining how the law has evolved and the possible direction of future reform
  • consider family law disputes concerning adults and children with a cross border element, including international child abduction.

Entry requirements

If you are new to study at university level, or are returning after some time, we recommend that you first study an OU level 1 law module such as Criminal law and the courts (W111) or Civil justice and tort law (W112), unless you are a graduate entry student.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You might find the following resources are useful preparation for this module:

What's included

You will be provided with the module textbook Family Law 2nd edn. Lamont, R. (ed.) (2022). Oxford: Oxford University Press and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • an eBook version of the module textbook
  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access and tutor support.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They will help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • providing individual guidance, whether that is for general study skills or specific module content.
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). You will be required to submit a short post on the Tutor Group Forum prior to your first assignment. No prior knowledge of family law is needed to make this post. 

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W230 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Family law starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2030.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school