Gronow v Gronow

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Gronow v Gronow[1] was a decision of the High Court of Australia which confirmed that the ‘preferred role of the mother’ is not a principle, a presumption, a preference, or even a norm. It is a factor to be taken into consideration where relevant. The Court also made it apparent that the primary responsibility for these decision rests with the trial judge and if he has performed his task well and exercised his discretion correctly, there is virtually no room for an appellate court to interfere.

The clearest discussion of the problem is to be found in the judgment of Stephen J. which makes it plain that presumptions such as the "mother factor" should play only a very limited role in custody cases: "Even in a community of unchanging social conditions, hard and fast rules or presumptions, based only upon matters of common but not invariable experience, provide a poor basis for the assessment of human behaviour compared with detailed investigation of the individuals in question."


The case is regarded as a significant precedent in the area of presumptions about the role of gender in custody applications. The case is part of the Higher School Certificate legal studies curriculum.


  1. ^ Gronow v Gronow [1979] HCA 63, (1979) 144 CLR 513 (14 December 1979).