LLS Staff Seminar #3: Discretionary Decision Making in Family Law – Legal Rule, Legitimate Guideline or Something Else?

In the third La Trobe Law School Staff Seminar for 2015, Associate Professor Lisa Young, School of Law, Murdoch University will examine the topic of discretionary decision making in family law.


Family law is a jurisdiction characterised by discretionary decision making. The legislative provisions in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FLA) governing the two key areas of parenting and property disputes include mandatory considerations; however, in the end it is a matter for the judicial officer what parenting order is in a child’s best interests, or what order altering property interests, if any, will do justice between the parties. Not surprisingly, in the 40 years since the FLA’s introduction, judges have sought to provide some guidance as to how discretion should be exercised in particular circumstances, to ensure consistency in decision making. There has been considerable confusion, however, as to the status of such judicial statements and the extent to which they are binding. This has created a deal of uncertainty, particularly in the area of property law, where not surprisingly judicial statements of principle are more common.  In this presentation, Associate Professor Lisa Young discusses the family court’s ‘taxonomy’ of judicial statements, particularly in light of recent Full Court decisions considering long standing family law ‘principles’. She also considers what this means for a range of other ‘established principles’ applied in family law proceedings.


Associate Professor Lisa Young has practised and taught in family law for nearly three decades. She is presently the Editor of Australia’s leading family law journal, Australian Journal of Family Law, lead author of Family Law in Australia and co-Editor of Children and the Law in Australia.  Associate Professor Young has worked as a decision maker in child support matters for 16 years, and keeps strong connections with the practice, including taking a successful pro bono appeal to the High Court. Her work spans all areas of family law and has been successful in influencing judicial interpretations of the law both in Australia and the UK. Her 2014 publications include papers on sexual abuse allegations in parenting disputes, the relevance of the parent-child relationship to adult child maintenance awards and the application of the Kennon rule, which considers how family violence impacts on property settlements. She is presently finalising papers on the nature of ‘special circumstances’ in child support departure applications and a comparative analysis of the treatment of earning capacity in the UK and Australia. Associate Professor Young has taught many subjects at Murdoch and UWA, as well as delivering practical legal training when she was Acting Deputy Director, and then Acting Director, of WA’s PLT provider.


Date: Tuesday 21 April 2015

Time: 10.15am to 11.30am

Venue: Martin Building, Level 3, Room 362A, La Trobe University, Bundoora

Cost: Free

RVSP: Light refreshments will be provided.  Registration is required for catering purposes by 5pm 17 April 2015. RSVP here

Marc Trabsky