This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, legal reference specialists.
In Part Two of our Family Law Beginner’s Guide, we are shifting our focus to what the law says about children’s roles in the family—focusing on their custody and care. Below, please find information and resources for legal researchers regarding child custody, child support, and domestic adoption.
If you are interested in resources related to dissolution of marriage, please see our previous post.
- Adoption Laws in a Nutshell, by Daniel Katz
- Adoption Law & Practice, by Joan H. Hollinger
Child Custody & Support
- Child Support Guidelines: Interpretation and Application, by Laura Morgan
- Determining Child & Spousal Support, by Marian F. Dobbs and Nancy McKenna
- Child Custody & Visitation, by John P. McCahey, et al.
- Handling Child Custody, Abuse, and Adoption Cases, by Ann M. Haralambie
- Mental Health Aspects of Custody Law, by Andre P. Derdeyn and Robert J. Levy
- Modern Child Custody Practice, by Jeff Atkinson
- Child Custody Practice and Procedure, by Linda D. Elrod
- Military Parents and Child Custody: Issues, Considerations, and Cases, edited by Rayan M. Pauwels
As we mentioned in Part One, many of the laws that regulate family law are promulgated by the states. To locate treatises specific to your state’s law, please click here to use our catalog. Specifically, to browse Library of Congress subject headings of interest, click “Browse,” use select “SUBJECTS beginning with” or “SUBJECTS containing” from the drop-down menu, and then input a subject heading using one of the examples shown below. Finally, click on a result and you can browse the materials classified under that subject heading. Where possible, we will include a link to the subject browse result below:
- Adoption–Law and legislation–[State Name].
- Adoption–Law and legislation–United States.
- Adoption–Law and legislation–United States–States.
- Adoption–Law and legislation–United States–Cases.
- Adoption–Law and legislation–United States–States–Cases.
- Child support–Law and legislation–[State Name].
- Child support–Law and legislation–United States.
- Child support–Law and legislation–United States–Trial practice.
- Support (Domestic relations)–[State Name].
- Support (Domestic relations)–United States.
- Desertion and non-support–[State Name].
- Desertion and non-support–United States.
- Child support–[State Name].
- Child support–United States.
- Custody of children–[State Name].
- Custody of children–United States.
- Custody of children–United States–Trial practice.
If you want to find the resources classed under these subject headings in a library in your area, we suggest performing a subject search in either your local library’s catalog or the WorldCat catalog.
To locate your state’s statutes on topics associated with family law, please see our Guide to Law Online page and click on your state. You will find a link to your state’s code under the heading “Legislative.” You will often find that family law, which is sometimes listed as “domestic relations,” has its own title or chapter.
While most laws in this area are state-specific, some federal laws can have a role as well, particularly in the area of adoption. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a very helpful report regarding these federal laws, titled “Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption,” which provides citation information and helpful summaries. For more information about how to do further research regarding federal legislation, see our prior post, “Federal Statutes: A Beginner’s Guide.”
If you are interested in court rulings in this area of the law, you may want to visit your local public law library to take advantage of their subscription(s) to commercial legal research databases, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. You can also locate cases related to adoption, child support, and child custody using Google Scholar and other sites on the free web. Because this area of law is often state-specific, you may want to limit your results to your particular jurisdiction. You may find that you need cases that interpret and apply a particular provision of your state’s family law statutes. You can locate these cases by searching Google Scholar using the citation to a section of your state’s code. To learn more about how to use Google Scholar to find free case law online, please view the Library of Congress video tutorial on the subject.
Rules of Procedure
Many states have distinct rules of procedure for family law. If you are submitting a pleading to a court, be sure to check the Federal or State Rules of Procedure, as well as the local court rules to ensure you have complied with their rules. For more information about state and local court rules, and to find links to pertinent online legal information, be sure to visit each state’s Guide to Law Online page.
State and local court websites often contain forms related to family law, and some even contain form packets. Again, please check our Guide to Law Online site for links to state and local court websites. Other online sources that might be helpful include:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “Laws Related to Adoption,” “State Child Support Websites,” and “Child Support Handbook”
- Cornell Legal Information Institute, “Adoption,” “Child Custody”
- American Bar Association, Section of Family Law, “Family Law in the 50 States”
- National Conference of State Legislatures, “Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database” and “Child Support Homepage”
- National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, “State Laws”
- National Center for State Courts, “Marriage, Divorce and Custody Resource Guide”
- Nolo, “Child Custody, Child Support & Visitation”
We hope you found this guide helpful. If you have any questions regarding your legal research, please contact the Law Library of Congress.
Great list of family law resources. Thanks.
There is so much that goes into family law, the professional lawyer I think are the only ones able to figure it all out. In such a stressful situation, you ware going to want someone you can trust to represent you, and help you get what is fair. I think family lawyers are really good listeners, and will help you through the whole process no matter what the court may decide.
I believe that the entire concept of child support is absurd. When we’re in a relationship or married, the government doesn’t tell us how much of our income we have to spend; why should they when we’re single? Regardless, most people will contribute to the welfare and material needs of children.