What Is Immediate Family?

The term "immediate family," also called first-degree relatives, refers to a person's smallest individual family unit. The immediate family can be determined as:

Blood relatives: direct relatives related by blood, such as siblings, children and grandchildren.
Lineage Relatives: Family members who share a bond through marriage, such as spouses, in-laws, adopted children, and stepchildren.

A general definition of immediate family is difficult because it depends on the organization that uses the term and the purpose for which the term is used. Learn how the term "immediate family" is used in a legal and financial sense and why it is important to designate members of the immediate family.

Definition and examples of immediate family

Even if two people are not connected by marriage, but by a civil partnership or cohabitation, the immediate family can apply. Members of a person's immediate family can become cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more. It depends both on the law in question and on the responsibilities people have to other people in their lives.

There are other criteria that are helpful in determining immediate family, in addition to blood and lineage. Some of the most common are:

  1. Distance: In the past, if family members lived far away, it was difficult to argue that they were considered close relatives. Today, living in a world of global communications and travel, it is easier to argue, even if you live far away.
  2. Relationship: Even if you are not close to some relatives, such as cousins, the law may require them to be part of your immediate family.
  3. Time: In some cases, family members can be considered immediate if they have lived with you for at least one year.

How Does Immediate Family Work?

The composition of a person's immediate family can vary for different legal or financial purposes. For example, if you have a family member who receives care at the hospital, hospital rules may require that he or she be a member of the immediate family in order to have visiting privileges. These are some of the most common situations in which you may encounter an immediate family need.


Depending on the terms of your employment, you may be entitled to days of mourning for the death of close relatives. Companies' human resources departments manage their bereavement leave policies and who constitutes an immediate family member. There are no federal laws governing bereavement days or bereavement leave.

If there is an employee handbook, it usually indicates the number of grieving days provided. If the company is unionized or has a collective agreement, bereavement leave is usually covered by that agreement. Many companies will follow the guidelines of the federal government when it comes to defining who is considered a member of the immediate family.

If employees require more time off for grief than is established in company guidelines, the company may ask them to take sick leave, vacation or, in extreme cases, leave without pay. Again, this may depend on whether the deceased is a member of the immediate family.


If you came to the US as a refugee or received asylum within the past two years, you can apply for your spouse or dependent child under the age of 21 to come to the US as a derivative refugee or asylum seeker.

You must have been married to your spouse and the child must have been conceived or born before you came to the US They are considered the only members of your immediate family for immigration purposes.

Family medical leave

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires employers to give an eligible employee a total of 12 weeks of unpaid work leave over a 12-month period for one of the following five reasons:

  1. The employee needs time to be born and care for a child.
  2. The employee needs time to adopt or raise a child.
  3. The employee needs time to care for his spouse, child or parent with a serious health problem. In-laws are not covered by the FMLA.
  4. The employee needs sick leave due to a serious health problem.
  5. The employee has an emergency related to the military service of an immediate family member.

In the case of family sick leave, the only people defined as direct relatives are the spouse, the child and the parents.

Stock Market Transactions

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has specified some areas in which brokers and brokers need to be careful when dealing with close family members. The first is the issuance of initial public offerings (IPOs), especially those that are "hot" or particularly popular. Immediate family cannot participate in these IPOs or this is considered insider trading.

FINRA's definition of immediate family is much broader than that defined by FMLA. The immediate family for the purposes of these types of stock transactions includes almost everyone from spouses, children, and parents to grandparents, cousins, and in-laws.

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Source: The Audiopedia

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