We understand that each relationship is unique.
We listen and we work with you to understand your personal circumstances which helps us to ensure that your position is protected. We understand that discussions about relationship property can be emotional, involve feelings of pressure of feeling powerless and our aim is to support and empower you through this process.
Whether you are at the start of a relationship, have been together for a long time, or your relationship is coming to an end, it is essential to understand how your property will be divided in the event that you separate from your partner, or you or your partner pass away.
The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 is the piece of legislation that sets out how your relationship property and separate property is to be divided.
Contracting out agreements (also known as pre-nuptial agreements)
A contracting out agreement is a binding agreement which clearly identifies the assets and liabilities owned by each party prior to the relationship and sets out the parties’ agreement as to what will happen to these if they separate or if one party dies. It can also include how assets or liabilities that are acquired during the relationship will be dealt with upon separation or death.
Separation and division of relationship property agreements
A separation agreement allows the parties to agree on a division of their relationship property without the need to go to Court. We can advise as to the law that applies and negotiate a fair division of relationship property between both parties. Separation agreements also need to be in writing, signed by both parties and both parties need to receive separate legal advice on the agreement.
Family Court proceedings
If you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on how you should divide your property, we can file proceedings in the Family Court to get the Court’s assistance in achieving a resolution. Proceedings in the Family Court put both parties under strict timeframes and ensure full disclosure of each parties’ financial position, which can be helpful if your ex spouse is not engaging with you about relationship property, or they won’t disclose their financial information to you.
Spousal maintenance claims
If you are unable to meet your own reasonable needs after a separation, you may be able to make a claim for spousal maintenance under the Family Proceedings Act 1980. There is a wide discretion in the amount of any payment and the length of time they should continue for.
Division of property on death
The surviving spouse has two options under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976. It is important to note that your partner gets this choice regardless of what your will provides.
Option A - to receive half of the parties’ relationship property; or
Option B - to receive the property left to them in the deceased’s will.
There is also the option for the surviving spouse to make a claim for further support and maintenance under the Family Protection Act 1955, if they think their provision under the will was not enough, or if the assets they receive in a relationship property division aren’t satisfactory.
You can ask the Family Court to legally end your marriage if you have been separated and living apart for at least two years and at least one party to the marriage is domiciled in New Zealand. You do not need to have resolved all relationship property matters to dissolve your marriage but you do need to satisfy the court that arrangements have been made for the day to day care of any children of the marriage and other aspects of their welfare.