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12 - Marriage Pluralism in the United States

On Civil and Religious Jurisdiction and the Demands of Equal Citizenship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2011

Joel A. Nichols
University of St Thomas, Minnesota
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Introduction: the call for more pluralism and shared jurisdiction in u.s. family law

“Legal pluralism” is hot. Indeed, “legal pluralism is everywhere.” As Brian Tamanaha observes, not only is there “in every social arena one examines, a seeming multiplicity of legal orders, from the lowest local level to the most expansive global level,” but, in the last few decades, legal pluralism itself “has become a major topic in legal anthropology, legal sociology, comparative law, international law, and socio-legal studies.” But problems with defining and understanding legal pluralism continue to “plague” its study.

What of legal pluralism in family law? Is such pluralism already “everywhere,” if we just look closely? A common observation is that family law – and family law practice – in the United States have become global due to “the globalization of the family.” As people form families across geographic and national boundaries, lawyers and courts routinely deal with complex questions of jurisdiction and comity with respect to marriage, divorce, child custody, and the like.

Marriage and Divorce in a Multi-Cultural Context
Multi-Tiered Marriage and the Boundaries of Civil Law and Religion
, pp. 309 - 340
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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