About this book

Welcome to the 2020 edition of The Law Handbook, published by the Fitzroy Legal Service. The Law Handbook contains a summary of the areas of law that most often affect people in everyday life. It is designed for people who want to be better informed about the law and more self-reliant in using it. The Law Handbook is also a useful resource book for people with many different interests – lawyers, teachers, students and community workers – or people who simply have an interest in a particular area of law.

The Law Handbook follows a tradition established by the Legal Resources Book in 1977. The original editors – Julian Gardner, David Neal and Peter Cashman – deserve congratulations for their valuable initiative. We acknowledge the efforts of past and ongoing contributors – all practising professionals with specific expertise in their fields of law – and value readers’ suggestions for further improvements.

The law is constantly changing and it can be misleading and sometimes very expensive to rely on out-of-date information. That’s why we produce a new edition each year. All chapters have been reviewed and, where required, updated. The Law Handbook also includes comprehensive subject, case and legislation indexes.

Except where stated, the law in this edition of The Law Handbook is considered current as at 30 June 2019. Areas where the law is likely to change in the future have been flagged. To find out if particular laws have changed, you can obtain free information from community legal centres and Victoria Legal Aid (see Legal services that can help).

Note that chapters have been grouped into related topics covering particular areas of daily life. For example, the topic of “managing your money” includes chapters dealing with social security payments, debts, bankruptcy, superannuation and taxation.

Using this book

The Law Handbook covers a wide range of legal issues. While it may not provide you with a solution to every problem, it contains enough information to help you understand your position and to know when and where to get more assistance. There are several ways to access the information you want:

Contents list: The book is divided into 84 chapters, each one covering a particular aspect of the law. If you have a specific problem, the contents list should take you to the chapter dealing with that general area.

Glossary: Sometimes it is difficult to avoid using technical legal terms. These are usually explained when first used in each chapter, but they have also been listed in the glossary. Words that are included in the glossary are underlined when they are first used in each chapter.

Search function: If you do not know where to start looking for the information you want, go straight to the search page.

Abbreviations: Any special abbreviations and acronyms used in the text are explained when first used in each chapter.