Private Tragedies? Family Law as Social Insurance

ANNE L. ALSTOTT

Abstract

Family law is full of private tragedy. Case after case pits one family member against another in a zero-sum struggle for resources. Spouses battle over limited assets; parents clash over child support; and children fight each other for resources when parental income is stretched across multiple families. Bad choices and bad luck, it seems, precipitate calamity; and there is little that the law can do when families self-destruct amidst unemployment, poverty, mental illness, disability, substance abuse, domestic violence, child neglect, and other problems.