Family Life and Family Interests: A Comparative Study on the Influence of the European Convention of Human Rights on Dutch Family Law and the Influence of the United States Constitution on American Family Law

Article excerpt

Family life and family interests: A comparative study on the influence of the European Convention of Human Rights on Dutch family law and the influence of the United States Constitution on American family law. Gerda A. KLEIJKAMP. The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 1999. xi + 368 pp. Bibliography, table of cases, index. ISBN 90-411-1136-0.

As the author notes in the introduction, many social and economic factors, especially the transformation of women's traditional economic and social roles, have had a significant impact on the institution of the family. Declining marriage rates, increasing divorce rates, increases in unmarried cohabitation and in the numbers of single parents and step-parents have altered the make-up of the traditional "nuclear family". These changing circumstances are continuing to pose complex challenges to policy-makers as they attempt to tailor policies to assist the different family types found in societies around the world. The legal standing of family and family members is often a critical factor when determining access to family policies, such as family social benefits, and when determining care obligations and payment of child support.

Kleijkamp's book is organized so as to provide readers with all the necessary information to understand and appreciate the different legal traditions and influences on family law in the United States and the Netherlands. Part one of the book succinctly outlines the differences between the common law systems of the United States and the civil law systems typically found in European countries. It provides a thorough comparative examination of family law and its underpinnings in the United States (Constitution, federal law, and state law) and the Netherlands (European Convention on Human Rights and Dutch law). In particular, it compares the relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights with those of the United States Constitution, identifying the legal institutions and the legal philosophies that influence judicial decision-making in family law. Since state law and procedures in the United States can have important implications for the family, the author has chosen three of the largest states - California, New York and Texas - to illustrate some of the differences in family law and related judicial decision-making at this level. She then goes on to examine the principles of filiation law in the United States and the Netherlands. Filiation law in both countries has traditionally been concerned with marriage and the lineage of children, but it must now take account of changing social, scientific (e.g. IVF) and demographic factors when considering the parental relationships that men and women have with their children. …