Australian Family Law

The Contemporary Context

Second Edition

Belinda Fehlberg, Rae Kaspiew, Jenni Millbank, Fiona Kelly, Juliet Behrens

Australian Family Law

The Contemporary Context

Second Edition

Belinda Fehlberg, Rae Kaspiew, Jenni Millbank, Fiona Kelly, Juliet Behrens






28 Nov 2014




$159.95 AUD

$183.99 NZD

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2020 Update: A Digital Update Digest is available as a supplementary resource for lecturers who prescribe Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context, second edition. See the lecturer resources tab for more information.

Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context
encourages critical thinking and a wide understanding of contemporary Australian family law.
Description and analysis of the law is set in a broad context that includes policy debates surrounding the law and the family as well as discussion of relevant empirical and research. Recent years have seen a burgeoning of empirical research relevant to family law and policy, and this research enables the authors to convey a rich sense of the law in action. The use of interdisciplinary materials means that the substantive law is presented in a highly contextualised way, which will appeal to a wide range of readers and enhance understanding.
The overarching theme of the book is the challenge of complexity in Australian family law, namely:
  • Structural complexity and fragmentation
  • Complexity in law and process
  • Complexity in family forms and needs; and
  • Complex interests
  • Comprehensively up-dated to reflect the latest family law changes and research findings
  • For both parenting and financial disputes, separate chapters providing: 
    • broader historical and empirical context
    • process  for resolution
    • legal framework
    • specific issues
To get the most from Australian Family Law 2nd edition, read it in conjunction with Australian Family Law Teaching Materials 2nd Edition, which gives readers access to an expanded selection of primary and secondary materials.


1. Introduction
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Themes
1.3 Structure of the book
2. Structural Fragmentation: The Constitutional Framework
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Family law and the Australian Constitution
2.3 How have Parliament’s powers been interpreted?
2.4 Extending Parliament’s legislative power
3. Mechanics of Fragmentation: The Jurisdictional Framework
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The Family Court of Australia
3.3 The Federal Circuit Court of Australia
3.4 Jurisdiction of the federal family law courts
3.5 Other courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act
3.6 The future of the federal family law courts
3.7 Case study: Jurisdictional overlap in child protection
3.8 Conclusion
4. The Legal Recognition of Family Relationships
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Recognition of adult partnerships
4.3 Who is a parent
4.4 Conclusion
5. Family Violence
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Recent developments
5.3 What is family violence?
5.4 Scope, extent and the significance of context
5.5 A spectrum of severity: Recent Australian evidence and implications for practice
5.6 Children and family violence
5.7 Family Law Act approaches
5.8 Civil protection orders
5.9 Conclusion
6. Introduction to parenting disputes
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Gender roles and parenting in separated and intact families: Empirical evidence
6.3 Legal concepts relating to parenthood in Part VII: An historical overview
6.4 The contemporary Part VII framework
6.5 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
6.6 Part VII: Current concerns
6.7 Conclusion
7. Processes for Resolving Parenting Disputes
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Sorting things out: Dynamics and issues
7.3 Participation of children and young people
7.4 Family Relationship Centres and other elements of the system
7.5 Alternative Dispute Resolution in family law: Development and debates
7.6 Court processes
7.7 Ongoing support
7.8 Conclusion
8. Framework and Principles for Decision Making in Children’s Matters
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Applying for parenting orders
8.3 How are parenting orders made?
8.4 The three-stage legislative pathway
8.5  After court orders are made
8.6 Conclusion
9. Specific Issues in Parenting Disputes
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Shared time: What are courts deciding?
9.3 Religion
9.4 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
9.5 Applications by people who are not parents
9.6 Parental mental illness
9.7 Disputes as to where a child will live
9.8 Conclusion
10. Introduction to Financial Disputes
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Understanding post-separation financial disadvantage
10.3 Wealth sharing within intact families and on relationship breakdown
10.4 Law and policy in relation to financial disputes on relationship breakdown: An overview
10.5 Conclusion
11. Child Support
11.1 Introduction
11.2 The CSS
11.3 Formula assessment: Preliminaries
11.4 The basic formula
11.5 Flexibility in the operation and application of the formula
11.6 Enforcement
11.7 Child support after the 2006–08 amendments: research and evaluation
11.8 FLA child maintenance provisions
11.9 Conclusion
12. Processes for Resolving Property Disputes
12.1 Introduction
12.2 How do separating spouses and de facto couples work out their property arrangements?
12.3 Dispute resolution processes
12.4 Mechanisms for giving effect to private agreement without commencing property proceedings
12.5 Going to court
12.6 Conclusion
13. Legal Framework for Resolving Property Disputes
13.1 Introduction
13.2 Property division under the FLA: Preliminaries
13.3 Identification of existing legal and equitable interests of the parties in their property
13.4 Is it just and equitable to make an order?
13.5 Identifying and assessing contributions
13.6 Consideration of additional matters
13.7 Is the result just and equitable?
13.8 Orders in section 79/90SM proceedings
13.9 After orders are made
13.10 Conclusion
14. Specific Property Issues in Property Disputes
14.1 Introduction
14.2 Allocating responsibility for financial losses and liabilities
14.3 Initial and post-separation contributions
14.4 Breadwinner contributions in high asset cases
14.5 Superannuation
14.6 Relevance of family violence to property outcomes
14.7 Financial agreements: Not so binding?
14.8 Conclusion
15. Maintenance for Spouses and de Facto Partners
15.1 Introduction
15.2 Working things out?: empirical evidence
15.3 Obtaining maintenance without going to court
15.4 Going to court
15.5 Legal framework: Two-fold threshold test
15.6 Orders
15.7 After orders are made
15.8 Conclusion
16. Conclusion


Belinda Fehlberg - Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne
Rae Kaspiew - a leading Australian socio legal researcher in the areas of family law and family violence
Jenni Millbank - Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney 
Fiona Kelly - Senior Lecturer School of Law, La Trobe University
Juliet Behrens - Senior Associate, Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Lawyers

Lecturer Resources

A Digital Update Digest is available to lecturers who prescribe Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context, second edition for their course.

The intention of this digest is to provide an update on significant developments since 2015, including statutory and case law amendments, scholarly research, as well as reports and inquiries – particularly the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2019 Report on its inquiry into the family law system.

For more information about this resource, please contact your Oxford Learning Resource Consultant.

Sample Pages

Read a sample chapter from Australian Family Law:
Chapter One: Introduction