How to Plot Love on an Indifference Curve

In From Partners to Parents: The Second Revolution in Family Law, June Carbone offers nothing less than a whirlwind tour of the current doctrinal and policy debates of Family Law – an astounding feat in a book whose main text (excluding endnotes and appendices) does not reach 250 pages. There seem to be few controversies about which Carbone has not read widely and come to a conclusion, and usually a fair-minded one: from the effect of no-fault divorce reforms on the divorce rate, to the long-term consequences of slavery for the African-American family (pp. 67-84), to whether the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (“AFDC”) program (prior to the recent reforms) influenced the number of nonmarital children (pp. 32-33, 96), just to name three. As it seems impossible to give a faithful overview in a few pages of a text which is already a remarkable work of concision, this Review will focus on three themes highlighted or implicated by the book: (1) the title theme – the way family law has changed its focus from the behavior of adults within a marital or nonmarital relationship (“partners”) to the behavior of adults toward their children (“parents”); (2) the problems for legal reform when our choices are so deeply affected, and perhaps determined, by history and social norms; and (3) how an attention to history and culture can be used both to deepen and to oppose an economic approach to domestic relations. In connection with this third theme, this Review will also offer some brief comments on the modern hybrids of law and economics and family law scholarship.