Different family ties

A family relationship is based on personal ties between persons. These are most commonly blood ties. However, you may also be bound to your family members through an officially recognized relationship such as marriage or adoption, or, in certain situations, because you have a factual relationship based on co-habitation.

Blood relatives

We often use the word “family” in reference to our blood relatives. We are bound to all the members of our family (and kin) by virtue of these biological ties.

example Your blood relatives are your biological parents, grandparents, siblings and your biological children. Siblings and grandparents and grandchildren are also blood relatives and their relationship is protected by the human right to a family life.

Legally recognized family ties

The relationship between family members may also be founded on legal recognition by the State. 

example A marriage establishes a relationship between a husband and a wife, as well as a relationship to their respective relatives – a father-in-law, a mother-in-law, a brother- or sister-in-law, etc. An adoption also establishes a relationship between adopted children and their adoptive parents, as well as creating ties between the children and other relatives of their adoptive parents. 

Other relationships

A factual relationship, such as a cohabiting couple, may also be legally recognized and protected by the human right to a family life, if it satisfies certain criteria. In order to assess whether such a relationship constitutes a family, a number of factors may be relevant:
  • whether the couple lives together
  • the length of their relationship
  • whether there are reasons for the marriage between them to be invalid
  • whether they have children in common
  • whether they have demonstrated their commitment to each other by other means, such as mutual emotional attachment, desire and will of both, that their relationship be recognized as such a community, economic attachment and the like
example A couple that has been living together for several years, is emotionally attached as lovers, shares finances, but hadn’t got married, will be considered living in a cohabitation partnership.


Last updated 14/07/2021