The family (Tirina: leten) is the basic social and legal unit in Sanmra. Leten could also be translated as "house", "clan", etc. Families are legally-recognized entities whose members must be registered with the government. They generally consist of portions of an extended family, although very small/new families may be only parents and their children. While the concept usually applies only to dalar in Sanmra, certain legal structures exist to accommodate human families as well.
At birth, a person is automatically registered as part of their parents' family. If they marry, they and their spouse must choose either to join one of the couple's families, or to break off and form their own family. A married couple must be in the same family, and a person cannot be in more than one family at once.
A person can choose to leave their family (or be cast out by them); such individuals or "independents" lose the protection and support of their family and no longer have some of the same legal protections or rights that they would as a member of a family. An independent (regardless of how such a situation comes about) can petition to be adopted by any family, including their original one, although such petitions are not always accepted. They could also join a family by marrying into one.
Formation of a new family requires a minimum of two people--specifically, a married couple. However, it is possible that due to situations such as deaths in the family or people leaving/being cast out from the family, a family may consist of unmarried individuals, or even only have one person left. (for example, if all members of a very small family die) In such a case, the remaining family member(s) are still legally considered a family. If only one member remains and they petition to be adopted into another family, it is very likely they would be accepted.
One interesting case is one where a married couple forms their own family, then divorces. In a typical divorce, the spouse who joined the other family must leave their new family and return to their own family. (Actually, they are technically very briefly an independent, and their original family could arguably refuse to accept them back... but such a case would be scandalous and is very rare.) However, if the couple left both of their own families to start their own, both of them are now independent. In such a case, their families are not actually socially obligated to take them back, given that they did choose to form their own family in the first place. If there are young children involved, they almost universally would stay with the mother, who then would be almost guaranteed to be taken back into her original family. Refusing to take in a single mother and her children is like the next thing to murder, in Sanmra.
A minor cannot be cast out of a family for any reason, and if they're abandoned or orphaned and thus left without a family, they are required to be taken back in by their parents' original families (who can argue it out in court who gets the kids).
Many humans who have lived in Sanmra for a long period of time (the kadeda) organize themselves along similar lines, and the same laws apply to them. However, human families are often smaller, consisting only of an immediate family or a very small extended family (e.g., grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren). Some human families have contracts with dalar families for protection and support.
Families generally consist of (most) unmarried members of an extended family, as well as any married couples who have chosen to stay in the family. Adoptions of unrelated individuals is fairly rare, although it does happen, even with adults. Technically, humans can join dalar families (and vice versa), but because marriages between humans and dalar are so rare and looked down upon, this is a very rare case. (most human-dalar couples would actually form their own families)
All adult members of a family, unless unable to participate for reasons of mental disability, are eligible to represent the family publicly (especially in court) and have the right to be included in family discussions/decisions. Each family has a single registered head. This patriarch/matriarch is the oldest living member of the family, unless that member has been declared unfit by a court (for example, if they have dementia) or if the member has, of their free will, given up the position. Historically, the head of the family was required to have been born into/a "natural" member of the family (rather than married into it), but this is no longer a legal requirement. The head of the family is legally responsible for ensuring the family's well-being, gets the final say in family decisions, and in certain cases can be held personally responsible for the actions of family members. Usually, an informal group of the oldest/most-respected members of the family serves as a sort of cabinet to the head of the family, in large families.
Rights and responsibilities
Families have certain legal rights that individuals do not, and as an extension of this, there are certain legal rights only members of families have. For example, while the right to vote is not restricted based on race, gender, species, etc., a person does need to be registered with a family to vote. Votes are usually submitted as a block by a family as a whole. If a member does not wish to vote or wishes to vote in a different way than the family as a whole, it's their responsibility to go down and register this in person. As a result, although everyone does technically have the right to vote, the largest families tend to wield significantly more power than the smaller ones.
Families are responsible for the protection and well-being of all of their members. Only families have the right to own property directly, and money is generally held in common, with each member of the family having access to the family accounts for whatever personal purchases they desire. Individuals generally live in family-owned or family-rented housing, with the utilities paid for out of the family accounts. In return, family members are expected to contribute to the family's well-being, either by working for money (to provide income for the family) or performing other duties for the family (such as being the family "maintenance guy" or the family accountant or lawyer). As a result, the Sanmra welfare system is rather limited in scope. Small/poor families can receive assistance from the government, but for independent individuals, it's a bit more complicated because they frankly fall through the cracks--the law is just not set up to deal with people as individuals.
If a person wishes to live independently without either contributing to or taking from their family, such as if they wish to live outside of Sanmra, such deals can generally be worked out with the family leadership. Basically, so long as they aren't using any family resources at all, they don't have to contribute much.
Only members of families can inherit from that family. While it's possible a biological descendant/ancestor may be given some personal items even if they're not a member of a deceased person's family, they don't have any legal right to such things, and they certainly have no legal right to anything beyond that.
Biological vs. legal family
Once a person joins a given family, they are legally only a part of that family. While the Sanmra obviously understand there is still a biological relation, and a person may maintain close relationships with people in their birth family, they no longer have any legal rights in that family, such as the right to inherit or the right to have a say in the running of the family.
One of the few places where a person's birth family is relevant is in sexual contact/marriage. Sexual contact or marriage with any married-in or natural member of either your current family or your birth family, along with any of your direct descendants, ancestors, or their siblings, is flatly considered incest. Marrying your first cousin from a different family? 100% A-OK, literally no one would bat an eye. Marrying a fourth cousin twice removed from your birth family that you aren't even a part of anymore? SIN.
In modern day Sanmra, the noble class is theoretically no longer legally extant; all government positions are legally open to any dalar member of a family (with many being open to non-dalar as well). In practice, however, the Sanmran government continues to include large numbers of formerly-noble families and families who gained influence and wealth through association with a formerly-noble family. Formerly-noble families are still referred to as the Thousand Families.
Some of the most prominent families, both historically and today, include:
A short list of some of the most prominent dalar families in Sanmra:
- Kaorn - sometimes called Leten ni Muran Sarda, 'the house of many sarda', because of the number of sarda who have been members of the Kaorn family. The family of the previous sarda, Lıniıl and Asihan. Historically allied with the Wiol family. Based out of Mekeras, Orsili District.
- Losa - family of the current sarda, Tien'a and Ledan.
- Wiol - one of the largest and most powerful business families. Asihan's birth family. Historically allied with the Kaorn family.
- Yinhir - political family, based out of Orsili.