REVIEWS

Publication Date01 Mar 1977
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1977.tb02421.x
REVIEWS
CASES
AND
MATERIALS
ON
FAMILY
LAW.
By
PETER SEAGO and
ALASTAIR
BISSETT-JOHNSON.
[London: Sweet
&
Maxwell.
1976.
xxxi and
500
pp.
€7.00
limp
covers.]
THE
reviewer has recently been assured by
a
number of legal luminaries
(ranging from
a
former Law Officer of the Crown to
a
member
of
the Law
Society’s Council) that, from
the practitioner’s
viewpoint Family Law is
today concerned exclusively with taxation. Advice founded
on
this belief is
commonly given to students. The withdrawal
of
legal aid for undefended
divorces is almost certain to mean that this particular source of outdoor
relief for the recently called barrister will have to be replaced by some other.
All this makes one suspect that the great bull market for the subject of the
late sixties and early seventies (when the seductive prose of “The Field
of
Choice” led many students to feel that divorce could and should become
little more than
a
milestone on the individual’s road to emotional maturity)
is at an end.
In
future Family Law will be studied by only
a
few enthusiasts
(who will perhaps have noted that
matrimonial
problems constitute
a
large part of the work-load of all Legal Advice Centres, that one
of
the major
problems of the battered wife
is
to find a solicitor who knows his way around
the complex legal machinery intended
to
protect her,
or
who even take an
academic interest in the relationship between legal norms and structures on
the one hand and private behaviour on the other). But whatever the future
popularity of the subject there is a clear need for a good source book if only
to replace the excellent (but now completely outdated) works of
J.
C.
Hall
and Webb and Bevan. Seago and Bissett-Johnson admirably meets this need.
The authors’ expressed aim is “to provide the reader with the cases and
statutes basic to most Family Law courses but also with extracts from
a
far
wider range of materials such as Law Commission and Command Papers. . . .”
The emphasis is, however, heavily on cases, and some teachers will regret
that there is not
a
wider variety of background material (which is often
iqaccessible to the student) than extracts from official reports and the
occasional article on (for example) the scientific background to blood testing
[p.
3371.
The range of subjects covered is fairly orthodox. Formalities
(Chap.
l),
nullity (Chap. 2), maintenance during the subsistence of the
marriage (Chap.
3),
dissolution (Chap.
4),
property (Chap.
5),
financial
provision (Chap.
6),
variation and enforcement (Chap.
7),
legitimacy, custody
and adoption (Chaps.
8
to
10).
Unfortunately “the need to observe tight
controls on the length of the book” (a phrase the full implications of which
will not be lost on those who have recent experience
of
the problems of legal
publishing) has meant the virtual exclusion of the local authority aspects of
child law. This is regrettable not only because of the importance of the subject
in practice but also because students find great difficulty in putting complicated
statutory material into context. It is in this sort of area that
a
source book
has potentially most to offer if it can provide sufficient “non-legal” source
material
on
what old-fashioned conceptualists would call the public adminis-
tration aspects of the subject to put flesh on the dry statutory skeleton.
(Professor Geoffrey Wilson’s “Cases and Materials” books are
a
good
Example from
a
different field of what can be achieved in this way.) The
decision to omit conflictual problems will arouse little controversy (which is
perhaps only
a
pompous way of saying that the reviewer has omitted them
from his book as well). But is it really true that succession is of such
a
specialist nature that it can safely be omitted? How is the student to understand
the case for (and against) community of property-to which the authors
rightly devote space-if he does not know at least in outline what happens to
237

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