The Wikipedia page for the language mentions a 'controversy' about whether it is a language, macrolanguage or language family.
Is there an official status for the language and what are the arguments for it not being a language?
I'm looking for the general distinction between a language and a dialect and a language family; what makes it one rather than the other?
There is no consistent, scientific distinction between two dialects of a single language, and two separate languages (with a common ancestor). It's most often a political distinction. Some highly mutually intelligible lects are considered different languages (e.g. Serbian and Croatian) whereas others with extremely low degrees of mutual intelligibility are considered the same language (e.g. the Valais dialect of Walser German and Standard German).
In linguistic circles, the Romance dialect continuum native to the historical Occitania, having evolved from Old Occitan, are all considered dialects of one language: Occitan. These are divided into various groupings of dialects, but they're all considered Occitan. Occitan and Catalan are often grouped together when discussing the romance languages, separate from the sandwiching Iberian and Gallo-Romance groups:
Languages are to language families what dialects are to languages - groupings of genetically related lects, just at different degrees of magnification. Sometimes other intermediate subgroupings are used, like macro-language, sub-family, sub-dialect, etc. These kinds of terms are akin to the use of Species, Genus, Family etc in biological taxonomic ranking.
On a political level, since Occitan is spoken in southern France, Italy's Occitan Valleys, Monaco, and Spain's Val d'Aran, the governments of these countries/regions are the relevant political entities:
In Catalonia, Aranese (the subdialect of Gascon spoken in Val d'Aran) is an official language, and since September 2010, the Parliament of Catalonia has considered Aranese Occitan to be the officially preferred language for use in the Val d'Aran.
Occitan has no official status in France, the country having a very unfortunate history in its treatment of minority languages...
French is the sole official language of Monaco.
In Italy, Occitan is officially recognised as "historical language minorities" by the Law no. 482/1999