Toward a Unified Field Theory of the Family: The American Law Institute's Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution Symposium on the ALI Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution

James Herbie DiFonzo, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University


This article discusses the overarching, if unarticulated, premise of the Family Dissolution Principles. Fundamentally, the Principles conceive of family law as entering a consolidation phase, in which scattershot judicial discretion is displaced by delimiting rules. In an effort to ensure the success of this consolidation, the ALI has blueprinted an architectonic design in the construction of the rules of domestic dissolution. This new legal structure showcases three features. First, the generative entities of family law, parents and other domestic unions, are undergoing a utilitarian metamorphosis. Parenthood is in the process of discarding its biological chrysalis and emerging in a more functional form. Second, the financial aftershocks of marital dissolution, traditionally termed alimony (or maintenance) and property division, have virtually melded into one integrated financial schema governing all domestic fractures. Third, despite the ongoing societal reconsideration of the ease of divorce, the ALI Principles exclude consideration of fault or any other dissolution-delaying mechanism. Considered together, these features fuse to form the backbone of a unified field theory of the family, one whose unspoken aim is finally to consolidate the no-fault divorce revolution.