Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 250 Location Durham


  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) and Contract Law (LAW 1071) and The Individual and the State (LAW 1081) (at the discretion of the Chair of the Board of Studies or delegate, a suitable module from another Department may be substituted for the Law pre-requisite.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with a sound understanding of the existing legal regulation and challenges within
  • (i) relationships between adults
  • (ii) the parent-child relationship, and
  • (iii) the overall conceptualisation and role of family law in modern society.
  • The course aims to introduce the student to some of the legal, moral, social and political debates which inform the substantive content of family law.
  • The course will focus on the challenges raised by the changing nature of 'family life' in modern society and will examine whether the law has responded satisfactorily to these changes.
  • The existing law and current reform proposals will be considered with particular reference to the arguments raised by those who feel the current law works unfairly against certain groups in society.


  • The course is divided into two parts.
  • The first half of the course deals with the legal regulation of domestic relations between adults.
  • It will explore:
  • Definitions of Intimate Association
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership Registration Formalities
  • Nullity of Marriages / Civil Partnerships
  • Divorce / Dissolution of Civil Partnerships
  • Introduction to Ancillary Relief and Prenuptial Agreements
  • Cohabitation
  • The second part of the course deals with the legal regulation of parenthood and the law relating to the parent-child relationship.
  • Determining Parentage and Parenthood
  • Parental Responsibility
  • The Children Act 1989 Framework, especially the Welfare Principle
  • Child Arrangement Orders
  • Child Protection

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the existing law on family relationships in England and Wales with, where relevant, some recognition of comparative perspectives.
  • Familiarise themselves with the secondary literature and debates surrounding key family law issues.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Apply the existing law to given factual scenarios and advise accordingly.
  • Analyse and evaluate the existing law in light of the legal, social, political and moral questions raised.
  • Appreciate how cultural, social and historical factors affect legal approaches to the problems encountered in family law regulation.
  • Engage in informed debate concerning current proposals for reform.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate developed research and writing skills, including the ability to work independently and for the student to take responsibility for his/her own learning.
  • Develop expertise in conducting research into materials from a variety of national and comparative sources.
  • Describe accurately and comprehensibly the arguments and analysis of other commentators.
  • Write in a clear and structured way and to put forward ideas in a scholarly manner.
  • Demonstrate an ability to explore complex issues creatively in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures are used primarily to impart knowledge - and also to suggest approaches to evaluation and critical analysis;
  • Tutorials will be used to develop and enhance students’ capacity for legal-problem solving in a particular factual situation and provide opportunities for critical analysis of the subject matter. Tutorials will also involve research-led teaching, encouraging students to engage in independent research on family law issues;
  • Assignments (formative) are used both to develop problem-solving skills, the ability to engage in sustained evaluation of legal issues, and the ability to evaluate the law in a critical and contextual way;
  • Students will be supported in the development of their research and writing skills by the provision of guidance on identifying and retrieving relevant sources and more generally on research methodology in the field of family law;
  • Students will have the opportunity to participate in on-line DUO discussion pages, which are intended to support students in their understanding of current family law issues. A specific discussion page will also be created for revision questions prior to the examination;
  • Module staff will provide ongoing support and guidance as appropriate;
  • Summative assessment comprises one unseen examination. In the examination students are given a choice of questions to answer, but the paper is structured in such a way as to assess students on the specific subject knowledge and subject specific skills. In particular, students are required to answer both problem and essay type questions: the former primarily assessing knowledge and analysis of specific factual situations raising key legal issues; the latter primarily assess knowledge, evaluative capacity and an awareness of placing the analysis of law in wider contexts of enquiry.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Tutorials 5 Normally: two in Michaelmas, three in Epiphany 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 175
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 3 hours 100% Y

Formative Assessment:

Michaelmas Term: 1 essay/problem scenario, 1,500 words. Epiphany Term: 1 optional essay/problem scenario, 1,500 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University