LAWGENRL 433 - Family Law

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: First Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Professor Mark Henaghan
Prerequisites: LAW 211
Restrictions: LAW 426, LAWGENRL 402

Course description

Family law is about the legal formation of family relationships, the resolution of family disputes and the influence of public policy on family affairs. The course covers all aspects of family law. In particular, this course will explore how the family justice system resolves parenting, financial, violence in the home, property and relationship disputes. The course will develop both the practical and theoretical understanding of family law. The practical will be  developed through a compulsory 50% assignment whereby each member of the class will act as a lawyer as well as a client in a family dispute that covers most aspects of the course. The course will also give you the opportunity to do an optional assignment that enables you to research, in some depth, a particular aspect of family law that you have an interest and a passion about. Family  law is a major area of legal practice. A key outcome of this course is that by the end of it you will feel confident to be able to master the key skills of the family lawyer as well as understand the challenges and tensions that families face when they are in conflict.   

Content outline

The course covers the following topics:  

Family Court Processes

Family dispute resolution, settlement conferences, court  applications and exparte applications, mediation and negotiation by lawyers.

Day to Day Care and Contact

Key principles in the Care of Children Act and how they apply; what the paramountcy principle means; the importance of children’s views; the enforcement of orders; the relevance of violence; contact in difficult cases, relocation of children (both overseas and within New Zealand) and international child abduction.  


Rights and duties of parents and guardians, decisions before and  after birth, medico-legal disputes within families and between  families and the medical profession, sterilization decisions and decisions after a child passes away.  

Marriage, Civil Unions, Separation and Dissolution

Requirements for entering relationships such as marriage and civil union and requirements for ending them.

Violence in the Home (sometimes called Domestic Violence)

Definitions for violence; orders for protection; occupation of the home; tenancy orders; harassment processes;

Finances and Property

Maintenance; child support and relationship property.

Protection of Children Within the Family

Child abuse; neglect; state care and the laws response to them  

Adoption and Surrogacy

New assisted reproductive technologies and surrogacy (both national and international).


3700 word compulsory file for a client (50%)

1500 word optional assignment (20%)

2 hour open-book exam (30% or 50% if optional assignment not completed.)

Plussage applies to the assessment.  Further information on how this will be calculated to be advised.

Open book means that you may, if you wish, bring into the exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes.

Recommended text

The principal study resource for this course is the casebook. There is no prescribed textbook for family law, but these textbooks are recommended:

Mark Henaghan et al Family Law in New Zealand  (18th ed, LexisNexis, Wellington, 2017).

Mark Henaghan and Bill Atkin (eds) Family Law Policy in New Zealand  (4th ed, LexisNexis, Wellington, 2013).