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What is an “Intact” Family?

In the past, the legal system defined a family as “intact” if both parents were married and living together. But can a family with no grandparental involvement truly be classified as “intact?’  The concept that an “intact” family consists solely of Mom, Dad and the kids flies in the face of biological, psychological, social and spiritual directives. In fact, a family that excludes grandparents is not intact at all. A family with living, but exiled grandparents is a dismembered, suffering family that turns grandchildren into grandorphans.

The modern “intact” family concept is destructive when it comes to healing family conflicts and problems. The “intact” family concept is divisive, separating family members into “them” and “us.”  This type of “intact” family looks at their problems as “we” problems, depriving themselves of the beneficial support that extended family members can provide.

Furthermore, the “intactness” of a marriage is absolutely no indicator of the health of a marriage, nor its noxiousness to a child. Most parents are caring and loving, but those who are abusive and destructive can hide behind the “intact” doctrine to conceal their wrongdoing from the law, grandparents and other extended family. The “intactness” of a family doesn’t necessarily mean it functions well or that the children are being cared for.

All kinds of mayhem occur in “intact” families, from normal conflicts and problems to life-threatening situations. The duality inherent in this separatist idea destroys family unity. Temporary parent-grandparent problems can become major, permanent feuds. Cut and dried legal doctrine has a way of making permanent problems out of temporary conflicts.

The concept of an “intact” family does not reflect the realities of family life and human relationships. Parents especially need to be protected from their impulsive decisions and actions. To date, grandparent visitation laws have prevented a great deal of family carnage by stating that grandparents are a part of the family constellation. There is a need for children to have access to their grandparents. In the long run this has been helpful to parents who are forced to deal effectively with grandparents rather than running away from the issues and perpetuating their own pain.

Our laws should reflect a different attitude. They should say that intergenerational families should be together. Despite their conflicts, family members need to learn to live together. It shows children that family problems should be worked out, not run away from. Society needs to opt for healing and union of the family, instead of divisive laws and policies.


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