Skip to main content


Photo of Professor Rebecca Probert

Professor Rebecca Probert

Professor of Law

Amory 242

I have a particular interest in family law and legal history. I have written on all aspects of modern family law, including popular texts such as Cretney and Probert’s Family Law (Sweet & Maxwell, 10th ed, 2018, with Maebh Harding) and Great Debates in Family Law (Palgrave, 2nd ed 2015, with Jonathan Herring and Stephen Gilmore ). I have also edited a number of collections of essays (Marriage Rites and Rights (Hart, 2015), co-edited with Joanna Miles and Perveez Mody; Fifty years in Family Law: Essays for Stephen Cretney (Intersentia, 2012), co-edited with Chris Barton; Landmark Cases in Family Law (Hart, 2011), co-edited with Stephen Gilmore and Jonathan Herring; Sharing Lives, Dividing Assets (Hart, 2009), co-edited with Joanna Miles; Responsible Parents and Parental Responsibility (Hart, 2009), co-edited with Jonathan Herring and Stephen Gilmore; Family Life and the Law: Under One Roof (Ashgate, 2007)).


Research interests

My research interests lie in the overlapping areas of marriage, cohabitation, bigamy and divorce. 

My first monograph, Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century: A Reassessment (Cambridge University Press, 2009) looks at how couples married in eighteenth-century England (shattering a few myths about common-law marriage, broomstick weddings and hand-fasting along the way). My second, The Legal Regulation of Cohabitation: From Fornicators to Family, 1600-2010 (Cambridge University Press, 2012) demonstrated the rarity of cohabitation in earlier centuries and how the common-law marriage myth only emerged in the 1970s. I am currently working on two monographs - one examining the origins of the modern law of marriage and the second the law of bigamy. 

I have also written a number of books for family historians. Marriage Law for Genealogists (Takeaway, 2012) examines how, when, why and where our ancestors married, while Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved? (Takeaway 2015) examines second marriages (some legal, some not). A Noble Affair: The Remarkable True Story of the Runaway Wife, the Bigamous Earl, and the Farmer's Daughter (Takeaway, 2013), written with Joanne Bailey and Julie Shaffer, tells the story of Henry Cecil, 10th Earl of Exeter, and his rather colourful marital history, while The Rights and Wrongs of Royal Marriage: How the law has led to heartbreak, farce and confusion and why it must be changed (Takeaway, 2011) examines the special rules that apply to the marriages of members of the Royal Family.  


Research supervision

I welcome applications from research students in any area of contemporary family law or its history, and particularly in areas concerning marriage, cohabitation and bigamy. I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

  • Sofia Gondal, 'Limping Marriages: A Critical Appraisal of the Law in England and Wales' (with Helena Wray)
  • Rebecca Shaw, 'The Augustan Marriage Plot: A Narratological Study of the Leges Iuliae' (with Genevieve Lively, University of Bristol)
  • Zaina Mamoud - 'California Baby: An examination of surrogacy regulation in the UK as compared to California, taking account of the experiences of surrogates in both jurisdictions' (with Anne Barlow and Katrina Wyatt)
  •  Alison Talbot, 'The Legal Administration of the Bishops of Worcester and Exeter, 1200-1500' (with Anthony Musson)
  • Tania Barton - 'What are the consequences for all affected when a person with dementia, as a consumer, enters into a contract with a business?' (with Severine Saintier and Iain Lang)


Rebecca Probert read jurisprudence at Oxford and then worked as a Research Assistant at the Law Commission for two years before studying for an LLM at University College, London. She subsequently taught at the Universities of Aberystwyth (1997-99), Sussex (1999-2002) and Warwick (2002-17) before joining Exeter Law School in April 2017.

In 2015 she was seconded to the Law Commission to work on their scoping paper, Getting Married.

 Edit profile