Rethinking family relationships in Dutch Law: Building bridges between the sociological and legal perspective
01 / 2006 - 12 / 2009
Family relationships are important for both society and the law. However, in Dutch legal literature hardly any attention has been paid to the legal position of family relationships such as relationships between (grand)parents and adult (grand)children and brothers and sisters. This is remarkable, since the question arises whether Dutch private and public law are dealing with family relationships correctly. Contemporary law is partially based on questionable presumptions on the emotional and financial solidarity between relatives, which results in legal uncertainty, injustice and costly procedures. First, it is expected that certain family relationships between relatives in the second or third degree have become less important than the law presumes. Secondly, some legal distinctions between categories of family relationships seem to be unjustified, such as distinctions in social security law between cohabiting relatives of the first and second degree, thus violating the equality principle. Thirdly, contract and property law ? strongly based on presumptions of individualism ? seem to account for the special ties between relatives insufficiently. This is relevant for the internal legal relationships between relatives, for instance with regard to care and support for (elderly) family members. A multidisciplinary research method is adopted. Whether the legal system needs adjustment, will thus be evaluated using sociological research (e.g. the recent Netherlands Kinship Panel Study) on the emotional and economic functions of different types of family relationships. A comparative law method will be used in order to investigate whether unique Australian legislation concerning family relationships is useful to overcome problems with the application of contract and property law to family relationships. The research is essential for developing a new way of thinking about family relationships and other close personal relationships. Reshaping the law is necessary, since at present it inadequately reflects social reality.