Family Law

Subject LAWS50047 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2011:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours.
Total Time Commitment: 144 hours.

LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning; LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law; LAWS50025 Torts; LAWS50026 Obligations; LAWS50027 Dispute Resolution; LAWS50030 Property; LAWS50031 Legal Theory.

Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: None.
Non Allowed Subjects: None.
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law School welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and Law School policy to take all reasonable steps to enable the participation of students with disabilities, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student’s participation in the School’s programs.

The inherent academic requirements for the study in the Melbourne Law School are:

  1. The ability to attend classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  2. The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  3. The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  4. The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  5. The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  6. The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will prevent them from participating in tasks involving these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


Prof Belinda Fehlberg


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475
Subject Overview:

This subject introduces students to family law by drawing on recent debate, research, and legal and policy development in relating to parenting and financial disputes on relationship breakdown.

Family law is a rapidly changing area of law. Specific areas of emphasis throughout the subject will be influenced by 2011 developments. However, in broad terms the topics covered will include:

  • Relationship recognition;
  • Post-separation parenting law and process: the content and impact of 2006 changes aimed at encouraging shared post-separation parenting and resolution of parenting disputes without court involvement;
  • Family violence and family law: the relevance of family violence to both process and the substantive law (parenting and financial disputes);
  • Child support: recent changes to the Child Support Scheme and their impacts on family members;
  • Property division on marriage and de facto relationship breakdown: ‘big money’ and ‘little money’ cases superannuation splitting; binding financial agreements (including pre-nuptial agreements); third parties and matrimonial property disputes; and
  • The future of spouse/partner maintenance.

Classes will comprise a mix of mini lectures, discussion and input from speakers invited to discuss with us their work in areas directly relevant to the material covered.


There are several specific objectives which it is expected that students will achieve by the end of the subject. They should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the legal frameworks that regulate post-separation rights and responsibilities of family members in Australia on relationship breakdown;
  • Apply analytical, critical, theoretical and evaluative skills to legal and social policy issues associated with the family;
  • Apply the relevant case law and legislation to hypothetical problems;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the application of family law in practice; and
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the factors relevant to the processes of law reform as it applies to the family.
  • Research essay of 5,000 words on a topic chosen from a list to be provided, or approved by the lecturer (100%)

  • Final three-hour exam (100%).
Prescribed Texts:
  • Belinda Fehlberg and Juliet Behrens, Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context (Melbourne OUP, 2007);
  • Belinda Fehlberg and Juliet Behrens, Teaching Materials for Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context (Melbourne OUP, 2009).
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

  • Attitudes towards knowledge that include openness to new ideas and ethics associated with knowledge creation and usage;
  • The capacity for close reading and analysis of a range of sources;
  • The capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection;
  • The capacity to solve problems, including through the collection and evaluation of information;
  • The capacity to communication both orally and in writing;
  • The capacity to plan and manage time;
  • Intercultural sensitivity and understanding;
  • Sensitivity and understanding of issues confronting families affected by violence.

In addition, on completion of this subject students should have developed the following skills specific to the discipline of law:

  • Case reading and analysis, including an ability to:

    - Extract important features from judgments;
    - Reconcile judgments;
    - Evaluate the development of legal principles; and
    - Apply legal principles arising from case law to new situations.
  • Statutory reading, interpretation and analysis, including an ability to:

    - Extract important features from statutes;
    - Evaluate the development of statutory rules; and
    - Use, interpret and apply statutory provisions to new situations.
  • Hypothetical problem solving, including an ability to:

    - Identify legal issues arising in complex facet situations;
    - Identify and apply relevant case law and statutory principles; and
    - Provide advice as to the rights and obligations of the parties.

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