Marriage, the family and family law in Australia

AIFS Discussion Paper No 13


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Content type
Research report

December 1986

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The paper discusses some of the broader social and legal issues surrounding marriage, the family and divorce. The changing sociological, historical and demographic features of the family in Australia and other Western nations is outlined. The author explores social values and attitudes to the individual and the family. He also explores the issues of individual and family autonomy versus social control in such areas as reproduction, property, sexuality and child rearing. Provisions of the Family Law Act in this context are outlined and evaluated, as well as the functions of the Family Court. The author particularly focuses on how the Family Law Act and Family Court affect the well being of children. Some of the results from the Institute of Family Studies Australian Family Re- formation Project are discussed.


  • Introduction
  • The Changing Social Context of Marriage
    • Demographic trends
    • Increased personal control
    • Shifts in social values
    • Significant social variations.
    • Inequality and poverty
    • The family as maker
    • Summary
  • The State and Legal Regulation of the Family
    • Public versus private control
    • The marriage contract
    • Progressive family law and community values
    • Rethinking the 'best interests' of children
    • Mediation and conciliation options
  • Research on Divorce and Family Law
    • Separation, divorce, remarriage
    • The quest for 'fairness'
    • Responses to family law practice
    • Attitudes to marital contributions and property
  • Implications for Family Law
  • List of References
  • Australian Institute of Family Studies - Original Data Collection

Edgar, D. (1986). Marriage, the family and family law in Australia (Discussion Paper No. 13). Melbourne: Institute of Family Studies.