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Friday, September 21, 2012

Family Law: Congress’s Authority to Legislate on Domestic Relations Questions

Alison M. Smith
Legislative Attorney

Under the United States Constitution, Congress has little direct authority to legislate in the field of domestic relations. The primary authority and responsibility to legislate in the domestic relations arena lies with the individual states. The rationale behind this approach is the lack of overriding national considerations in the family law area. However, states’ freedom to legislate has led to substantial variation between the individual states on many topics including incidents of marriage, divorce and child welfare. As such, Congress continues to utilize a number of indirect approaches to enact numerous federal laws which impact on family law questions. This report discusses the extent to which Congress is constitutionally authorized to legislate on family law questions, and includes examples of present laws utilizing the various approaches available in this area.

Date of Report: September 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: RL31201
Price: $29.95

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