Understanding Australian Family Law

Posted on: 16 July 2018

Family law is a branch of law concerned with family relationships such as divorce, child support and property distribution. It is complicated as various states have different laws on divorce, child custody and asset distribution. To successfully argue out a client's case, a family attorney has to have the requisite knowledge of the applicable laws in the client's state.

Below is a short guide on Australian family law.


When a couple decides to call off their marriage, each partner is obligated to hire a divorce lawyer to represent them in court. The lawyer represents their interests regarding child custody and division of property. In Australia, divorce matters are covered in the Family Law Act 1975. The law covers de facto couples including those of the same sex. For divorce proceedings to be initiated, the marriage must be irretrievably broken with at least one year of separation.

Child Support and Custody

The Australian government child support scheme determines payments to be made by one parent to the other to support the child. Parents are obligated to support adult children who are students or disabled. Since 2006, the law has been amended to ensure that children benefit from the love and care of their parents even after divorce. Equal shared parental responsibility enables both parents to take part in making decisions for their children. Such decisions include education, health, religion and cultural upbringing.

Property Distribution

The Australian law adopts equitable distribution of property between divorced spouses. There are four steps to deciding how wealth will be distributed between spouses.

  • Establishing the assets and liabilities of the couple
  • Determining the contribution of each spouse in acquiring the assets
  • Calculating and adjusting the means and future needs of the spouses and their children
  • Reviewing the process to ensure it is just and fair

Spousal Maintenance

If one spouse is unable to provide for him or herself, then the economically advantaged partner is obliged to maintain the other spouse. Spousal maintenance is non-gender specific as it may apply to either the man or woman.

Couples can enter into a binding financial agreement before commencing a de facto relationship or contemplating marriage. Such an arrangement gives details on how property will be shared out if the marriage or de facto relationship breaks down.

Family law in Australia is concerned with action to be taken once a couple terminates their marriage or de facto relationship. Divorce, property distribution, child support and spousal maintenance are critical areas of concern.