Canadian Journal of Family Law


Suzanne Zaccour

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Who needs family law? While it is tempting to answer “everyone”, the stakes are not the same for all. I propose to evaluate family law rules in terms of how they address high-stakes situations—that is, the condition of vulnerable women. Thus, the test of good family law should be how well it deals with poverty and domestic violence, factors that directly constrain women’s ability to negotiate fair outcomes.

To explore this method, I take the example of a recent proposal, developed by Alain Roy’s reform committee (the “Comité consultatif sur le droit de la famille”), and regarding which the Quebec government held public consultations in 2019. I show that this reform proposal, which purports to respond to the diversity of Quebec families, rather prioritizes a single ideal of the modern, equal, and autonomous family. The reform’s supposedly autonomy-enhancing rules would especially penalize poor and victimized women—thus failing my proposed test of good family law. These women, I argue, should be considered model test cases, not exceptions.