Marriage. Marriage before coming of age (16-17 years old) was not approved. Premarital relations between younger people were relatively free. Matchmakers participated in arranging the marriage. The groom's mother's brother was considered the honorary matchmaker and, thereafter, co-parent-in-law. Traditionally marriage was monogamous. Quranic norms (Sharia) were not widely observed, but customary law ( adat ) enforced strict exogamy. The nobility ( tuabiy ) only married within their social class. Kinship with the Ossetian Badilyats and Aldars was considered prestigious, as were relations with the Kabardian Pshi and Tlokothlesh. Divorce was not common. The initiative for it came from the husband, and resort to legal bodies in matters of divorce was rare.
Domestic Unit. Residence was patrilocal. Although the small (nuclear) family prevailed, Balkars preserved the tradition of the extended family until the end of the nineteenth century. In Khulam, for example, an eighty-three-person household with a courtyard was noted. In the days of extended families, the head was the oldest male, and this practice continued in small families in the Soviet period. When an extended family separated, plots of land were divided among the men according to the laws of inheritance, with the youngest son eventually inheriting the parents' share ( atalïq-analïq ). The final decline of the extended family commune occurred in the Soviet period.