Lesson 3: Family Law


Grade Level



2 periods

Lesson Plan (PDF)


This lesson introduces students to family law. In the past, the basic family structure was the nuclear family. These families consisted of a husband, wife, and their children. Things have changed in the “typical Canadian family” over the past few years. When a family breaks up, a lot of changes occur and a number of decisions must be made. This affects all members of the family. Family mediations are helpful in this process. All members of the family have rights and responsibilities.


By the end of the lesson, students will:

  • Understand the legal requirements and terms of a family, marriage and common law partnerships under the law
  • Consider what happens when a family breaks up and what decisions need to be made
  • Examine the courts that deal with family law
  • Understand the importance of mediation as an alternative to court proceedings  in family law cases
  • Know some of the rights of children and responsibilities of parents
  • Learn how to critically think about their learning and apply it to family law cases

Focus Questions

  1. What is a family?
  2. How has the definition of family changed?
  3. What does common law mean?
  4. What happens when families break up?
  5. What is mediation?
  6. What rights do children have within a family?
  7. What obligations to parents have?

Teaching Summary

Topic 1: Family Unit Defined

This topic is covered in Activities 1 and 2.Students will read Handout 1: What is a “Family” in Canada? They will then write about and discuss how the term “family” has changed in Canada. Students will then read Handout 2: Legal Requirements of Marriage

For this optional exercise, students will use Handout 4: Same Sex Marriage Equal Under the Law. They will write about and discuss whether same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Topic 2: Family Break-Up

This topic is covered in Activity 3. Students will receive Handout 5: What Happens When Families Break Up? and Handout 6: A Simplified Mediation Process to read over. When they are finished, they will role play a group mediation session using Handout 7: A Family Law Mediation Simulation.

Topic 3: Rights of Children and Responsibilities of Parents

Activity 4 covers this topic. Students will receive Handout 9: Rights of Children and Responsibilities of Parents. Students will read a scenario about a family household in which abuse is occurring. They will be asked to right an ending to the story, taking into account what they have learned in this lesson.