Disclaimer: it goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list and my only qualification to write about this is getting a first in family law. I am also going to try and avoid too much generalised advice and just let you know what I wish I knew before taking the module. So let’s get started.
- You need to consider the wider context – policy considerations, likely effect on the child, the political climate etc. Really consider this in essay questions and if you’re planning on thinking out of the box, problem questions too!
- Take a psycho-social approach to the law – You will likely have a lot of studies thrown at you in lectures or put on your reading list about things like the importance of contact with both parents, the impact and prevalence of domestic violence, the reaction of the criminal justice system to domestic violence and various other areas you will cover throughout the course. It can be difficult to know how to utilise these and what the purpose of them is at the beginning because these are things that are not featured in many other law modules. But use them! Use them to back up a point, use them to help explain why the law is the way it is and if you have coursework critique them.
- The Welfare of the child is paramount – The welfare principle comes up time and time again in family law. Know S1 Children Act 1989 off by heart. Just do it. Even if you can use statute books in the exam. In revision notes make note of when it applies and which parts apply to help avoid confusion.
- Feminism – Feminist perspectives to the law are prevalent and easily applicable to the entirety of family law. If you have coursework spend some time discussing this where relevant and think about it for exam essays.
- Utilise a variety of resources – It can get confusing, but fortunately family law is well resourced. If you need to use a website meant for parents going through disputes just to get the bare bones then that’s okay. You can build up from that to get the knowledge base necessary for a first. Understanding is however key. You can know all the statute and case law but if you don’t know the reasoning behind it or implications of it you won’t get a first.
- Human rights – More specifically consider A8 ECHR and the implications that has on the law in that topic – could one argue A8 implications as a reason for reform?
- Case facts – Okay I guess this is a more general one. They can be useful for essays to analyse whether the decision was a just one or to outright say how unjust the decision was but don’t get too bogged down with them. In problems remember that in many areas of family law each case is decided on it’s own facts. So don’t justify your conclusion based on a similar case. Stick to principles from the cases and apply them.
If you keep these in mind, they will definitely help you succeed in this module. Family law can get very overwhelming but it is certainly doable and it was probably my favourite module in final year.
If anyone wants advice relating to other modules you may take in law school leave a comment! And if anyone has more family law advice please feel free to comment!