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Family Law: A Beginner’s Guide

State Law Primer

It is important to note that many of the laws that regulate family law are promulgated by the states. As such, look below to find additional information regarding how to conduct this state-specific research, particularly with regard to statutes, case law, and rules of court procedure.

State Statutes

To locate your state’s statutes on topics associated with family law, please see our Guide to Law Online: U.S. States and Territories page and click on your state. You will find a link to your state’s code under the heading “Legislative.” You will often find that family law, which is sometimes listed as “domestic relations,” has its own title or chapter.

While most laws in this area are state-specific, some federal laws can have a role as well, particularly in the area of adoption. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a very helpful report regarding these federal laws, titled “Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption [PDF],” which provides citation information and helpful summaries. For more information about how to do further research regarding federal legislation, see our research guide, “Federal Statutes: A Beginner’s Guide.”

Cases

You may want to visit your local public law library External to take advantage of their subscription(s) to commercial legal research databases, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. To find your local public law library, visit:

You can also locate cases related to dissolution of marriage using Google Scholar External and other sites on the free web. Because this area of law is often state-specific, you may want to limit your results to your particular jurisdiction. You may find that you need cases that interpret and apply a particular provision of your state’s family law statutes. You can locate these cases by searching Google Scholar using the citation to a section of your state’s code.  

To learn more about how to use Google Scholar to find free case law online, please watch this video tutorial:

Rules of Procedure

Many states have distinct rules of procedure for family law. If you are submitting a pleading to a court, be sure to check the Federal or State Rules of Procedure External, as well as the local court rules to ensure you have complied with their rules.

For more information about state and local court rules, and to find links to pertinent online legal information, be sure to visit each state’s Guide to Law Online page.

Resources Referenced