LAW5409 - Principles of family law - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Adiva Sifris (1st and 2nd offering)

Quota applies

Postgraduate programs are based on a model of small group teaching and therefore class sizes need to be restricted.

Unit guides


City (Melbourne)

  • First semester 2019 (On-campus)
  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


This unit provides students with an understanding of the fundamental principles and concepts in family law and the policies underlying them. It commences with an examination of what is meant by 'family' and the challenges facing family law with the increase in diverse family forms. Included in this discussion are contemporary issues relating the advances in medical technology and the identification of parentage.

Once an understanding of what constitutes 'family' is established, the practice and process of family law including the non-adversarial procedures which have been established to encourage parties to resolve their disputes without the necessity of resorting to litigation are considered. The efficacy and relevance of financial agreements, child support agreements and consent orders are also discussed.

The unit then examine the basic principles relating to the division of property following the relationship breakdown of married couples and de facto couples including same-sex couples. The discussion of the financial aspects on relationship breakdown includes what constitutes property and financial resources as well the approach to the division of superannuation entitlements. The approach of the court to the division and alteration of property interests between the parties and the factors that are taken into account in reaching an outcome are central to this discussion.

The unit also delves into the dynamic and volatile area of disputes surrounding parenting arrangements. Legislation and case law for determining the pathway to suitable parenting arrangements which are in the interests of children are examined. Non-adversarial procedures and parenting plans also form part of the discussion. Criticism of the recent reforms relating to parenting arrangements and potential changes to the legislation are discussed. Issues relating to child support are also briefly dealt with.


On completion of this unit students will have:

  1. acquired an understanding of the fundamental policies underlying the Australian family law system
  2. acquired an understanding of the current challenges and debates surrounding Australian family law
  3. acquired an understanding of the essential concepts of Australian family law
  4. developed a thorough familiarity with the essential provisions of the relevant family law legislation
  5. developed an understanding and be able to analyse and critically comment on a basic property dispute on the breakdown of marriage or a de facto relationship
  6. developed an understanding and be able to analyse and critically comment on a dispute involving parenting arrangements
  7. further developed skills in research, writing, statutory interpretation and legal argument
  8. further developed oral articulation of legal argument during class discussion.


Examination (1 hour plus 15 minutes reading time): 50%

Class participation: 10%

Court Report: research, write and critically analyse and evaluate an aspect/s of the court proceedings (in pairs) 30% (2250 words)

Individual reflection on attendance at court and working in pairs (750words): 10%

Workload requirements

24 contact hours per teaching period (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements).