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What is Considered to be an Immediate Family?

What is Considered to be an Immediate Family?

When we think of "family", we think parents, children, spouses, and grandparents, and the vice versa relationships between them. But when it comes to financial and legal terms, the people who may be considered to be close family and extended family may differ. We bring you the meaning of immediate family, along with legal definitions and ways to determine the same.
Rashmi Sunder
As the Law Defines
The Missouri Code of State Regulations, 19 CSR 15-7.021 (18) (H) states that "an immediate family member is defined as a parent; sibling; child by blood, adoption, or marriage; spouse; grandparent or grandchild."
The word "family" can be a very ambiguous one. For the layman, it may include his/her parents, their spouses, and their children. When you think of family, it may also include grandchild, grandparents, in-laws, siblings, cousins, and other members that you hold close. If you were allowed to become even more general, someone who is very close to you like a friend or someone who is otherwise not blood-related may also be considered to be a part of your "family".
So what is "immediate family" then and who all are included in it? Legally, the word immediate family may include different members that are close to you, depending on the defining party, the reasons for which the division is taken in regard, and the circumstances which call for the need of defining your "immediate family". They are also known as first-degree family. So what does the term "immediate family" mean? We bring you both a general as well as legal definitions of the term, along with some circumstances which rely on the term.
IMMEDIATE FAMILY: What Does it Mean?
It is a defined group of relations that is used in rules and certain laws to determine which members of your family are affected by such aforementioned rules and regulations. It refers to one's parents, brothers, sisters, children, and relatives who are supported financially. It may also include the in-laws. Under these different relations, certain members may be included:
  • Spouses- includes in-laws, as well as same-sex partners.
  • Child- Blood-related, adopted, step, grandchild, and great-grandchild.
  • Parent- includes step, grandparent, great-grand, in-laws, and common in-laws.
  • Brothers and Sisters- includes step, half, in-law, and common in-law.
  • Legal Guardian- (with proof of judgment) as well as spouse of legal guardian.
Legal Definition of Immediate Family
There are various legal definitions for the term, which change with the circumstance and the workplace. We give you some examples of the legal definitions the term takes on:

According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 780.308 in the United States, an immediate family is defined as follows. The Act does not define the scope of "immediate family." Whether an individual other than a parent, spouse, or child will be considered as a member of the employer's immediate family, does not depend on the fact that he is related by blood or marriage. Other than a parent, spouse, or child, only the following persons will be considered to qualify as a part of the employer's immediate family: step-children, foster children, step-parents and foster parents. Other relatives, even when living permanently in the same household as the employer, will not be considered to be part of the "immediate family."
The Missouri Code of State Regulations, 19 CSR 15-7.021 (18) (H) states that "an immediate family member is defined as a parent; sibling; child by blood, adoption, or marriage; spouse; grandparent or grandchild."
When it comes to business or workplace definitions, here are some examples:
  • The Australian Fair Work Act 2009, Section 12, defines immediate family as "a spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee; or a child, parent, grandparent or sibling of a spouse or de facto partner of the employee."
  • A travel insurance policy which covers curtailment due to the death or illness of a member of the policy-holder's "immediate family" has a wide range of definitions but includes residential requirements like: "Immediate Family is your Partner, and: parents, children, stepchildren, fostered or adopted children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, or grandparents, of either you or your Partner, who live in your Home Country." and "Partner is your spouse or someone of either sex with whom you have a permanent relationship, and who also lives with you at your Home."
Now that you have the basic idea of what an "immediate family" is, let us look at the factors that are considered while determining your immediate family.
There are several factors that are to be considered while determining which members of your family can be called "immediate". Here are some of them:
Blood Relations
This includes members of the same lineage, be it parents, children, siblings, or grandchildren.
Relations through Marriage
Relations that are formed through marriage include spouses, stepchildren, and in-laws.
Although this factor doesn't come into count much these days, it suggests that the people with whom you have close and frequent contact may be considered to be immediate family. But this factor does take into consideration members like a parent or a child who has gone overseas for work-related, educational, or other factors, which is why distance has be all but ruled out as a factor for determining immediate families.
Conflicting Relationships
This can be a gray area, because even though you may not be close to some members, due to certain factors like lineages or relationship through marriage, they are legally bound as your immediate family.
Length of Time
Some clauses in certain workplaces consider someone to be immediate family if you have stayed with them for over a period of one year.
You may have grasped the concept of an immediate family by now, but you may still ask, "Why is it necessary to define your "immediate family"? We'll tell you why.
These are the circumstances due to which defining your first-degree family members becomes important:

Immediate family members are entitled to a person's life insurance policies or death benefits if a tragedy were to occur.

One of the main factors is a person's will. All immediate members play an official role in the disposition of a will. Even if they are not joint holders, immediate family members are allowed to take charge of the deceased member's safety deposit box. In some states, they may also receive a court-ordered family allowance, and household goods may also be passed on to such members without probate.

You get to take leaves of up to twelve weeks to take care of an immediate family member who has fallen ill.

You also get bereavement days from the day of death to a day after the funeral in the case of immediate family members.

Immigrant visas are more likely to be given to immediate family members due to higher preference given to them.

They may be entitled to the same health benefits that your workplace offers you.

As mentioned before, even travel insurance policies call for immediate family members.

There may be other legal or financial causes not mentioned above that may also call for the need to define your immediate family members.
Now that you fully understand what the term "immediate family" means, the next time you come across a legal document containing this term, you will have a better idea of how to deal with the same.