Laws and families

Our research expertise

The present form of the family law system in Australia was shaped initially by the enactment of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and the establishment of the Family Court of Australia in 1976. The court continues to exercise jurisdiction in matters involving divorce, children’s issues, property and maintenance alongside the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (established in 2000). The Family Court of Western Australia exercises jurisdiction in these matters in Western Australia.

Since 1975, a range of social changes and policy shifts have continued to influence the system in significant ways. These are reflected in many different amendments to the Family Law Act, including:

  • the introduction of the presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility in 2006
  • provisions placing increased emphasis on the need to protect children from harm from exposure to abuse and family violence in 2012.

At the same time there have been shifts in the composition of the system of services that assist families with relationship breakdown, most evident in 2006 through the introduction of a network of 65 Family Relationships Centres providing, advice, support, assistance and family dispute resolution services.

Relationship breakdown has been a core focus for AIFS since its establishment in 1980 (under the Family Law Act). Through an extensive and long-standing research program, we have examined a range of family law related issues, including:

  • the functioning of the family law system, including family dispute resolution and mechanisms for the support of children
  • parenting post-separation
  • family violence and child safety
  • the operation and impact of the Family Law Act
  • the economic impact of relationship breakdown
  • the service needs of families after separation
  • the intersection between child protection agencies and the family law system.


Rae Kaspiew
Senior Research Fellow

Lixia Qu
Senior Research Fellow

Rachel Carson
Senior Research Fellow

Dinika Roopani
Senior Research Officer

More information

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.