Thursday, March 4, 2021

Sources of Family Relationships

(Source: Law of Family Teaching Material   

Aschalew Ashagrie & Martha Belete)

There are three sources of family relationships namely, marriage, filiation and adoption. The status of the persons as well as the rights and obligations of the persons differs with the difference in the source of the relationship. This section deals with the different sources of family relationships and the effects of the relationships.


Relationship by consanguinity

Relationship by consanguinity results from the birth. It is ‘the tie which exists between two persons, such as the son and the father, the grandson and the grandfather; or those who descend from a common ancestor, such as two brothers, or two cousins.’[1]  Hence, relationship by consanguinity is a natural fact which is derived from birth.


Excerpts from Planiol pages 387-389

The series of relatives who descend from each other form what is called a line. It is a direct relationship: it is represented by a straight line going from one relative to the other, no matter how many intermediaries there may be. As to the relationship which unites two relatives descending from a common ancestor, it is called collateral relationship: its graphic relationship is formed by an angle. The two relatives occupy the inferior extremity of the two sides and the common author is at the top. Two collateral relatives are thus not in the same line; they form part of two different lines which started from the common author, who represents the point where the junction is made; the two lines travel side by side, which fact explains the word 'collateral'; each of the two

relatives is, in regard to the other, in a line parallel to his own, collateralis. …

In each line relationship is counted by degrees, i.e. by generation. So the son and the father are related in the first degree; the grandson and the grandfather in the second degree, and so on. 


Method of calculation of relatives in the direct line is easy.: there are as many degrees as there are generations going from one relative to the other.

When it comes to collateral relationship there are two ways of computation. The one used by the civil law count the number of generations in the two lines by departing from the common ancestors and by adding the two series of degrees. Thus, two brothers are related in the second degree (one generation in each branch); an uncle and his nephew are related in the third degree….in the Canon law another way is used to compute the degrees: the generations are counted only on one side. When the two lines are equal, either may be taken. When they are not equal, the longest one of the two is chosen and no attention is paid to the other. The result of this Canonical computation is that two first cousins are related in the second degree, while according to the civilian computation they are related in the fourth degree

To reach to the degree of relationship between persons related in the direct line, we simply count the number of lines between them. Here, the grandfather and the grandchild are related in the third degree in the direct line.

In calculating the degree of relationship in the collateral line, there are two way, which will lead to different results. Let us have a look at the following diagram to have a clear understanding of the two systems

The children of A are related in the collateral line. If we are using the Civil law system to calculate the degree of relationship between B and C, who are brothers, we will add the two lines which are departing from the common ancestor A. Hence, B and C are related in the second degree. B, who is the uncle of E, is related to E in the third degree. And B is related to F in the fourth degree.


On the other hand, if we use the Canon law, the result will be different. As mentioned earlier, the cannon law tells us to count only on one side. When the two lines are equal, we will simply take one line. Accordingly, the degree of relationship between B and C is one. Conversely, if the lines are not equal, the longest line is to be taken. Hence, in the above diagram, B is related to F in the third degree.


When we look into the Ethiopian Civil Code of 1960, it does not govern how the relationship in the direct line is to be computed. Article 551 tries to give some highlight on how the computation of relationship in the direct line is to be conducted. The Amharic version of the Code states as follows  

However, this article only tells us that calculation of degree of relationship in consanguial line is to be done by taking the common ancestor as a bench mark. 

Relationship by Affinity

Relationship by affinity is created as a result of marriage. 'Relatives through marriage are persons who are not relatives, but which join the family by means of a marriage.'[2] When a marriage is concluded, the relationship is formed between one of the spouses with the blood relatives of the other spouse. The woman who marries becomes the daughter in law (by marriage) of the father and mother of the husband and the husband becomes the son in law of the mother and father of the wife. 'The two spouses are considered as being only one, so that all the relationships of the one become, by the effects of marriage, common to the other.'[3]  One thing which needs to be noted here is the fact that the relationship created does not go beyond this. That means, a relationship does not exist between the relatives of one spouse with the relatives of the other spouse.


Relationship by Adoption

Relationship by adoption is created as a result of a special contract between the adopter and the original families of the adopted child. Unlike blood relationship, it is a fictitious relationship which resulted from the agreement of the parties to the adoption contract. However, it is also an imitation of the real relationship. Chapter eight deals in detail about adoption, and hence, it is not necessary to go to the details under this section.


[1] Planiol, 387

[2] Planiol, 391

[3] Planiol, 392

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