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Family law

Dividing your property when you split up (“Relationship property”)

Rules for dividing relationship property

Equal sharing of relationship property

Property (Relationships) Act 1976, s 11

If you can’t agree about how to divide the relationship property, then one of you can apply to the Family Court for the property to be divided under the rules in the Property (Relationships) Act.

If the relationship has lasted at least three years, the general rule is that relationship property is divided equally between you.

At what date are the shares in relationship property determined?

Property (Relationships) Act 1976, s 2F

If the relationship has ended, the shares of each partner in the relationship property are determined at the date the relationship ended. If you are still living together, your shares in the relationship property are determined at the date an application for property division is made to the court.

How can children be provided for?

Property (Relationships) Act 1976, ss 26–28D

Under the Property (Relationships) Act, the court must take into account the interests of any dependent children of the relationship. In doing this, the court can:

  • award relationship property for the benefit of the children
  • make an order postponing the division of relationship property to prevent undue hardship to the partner who is the principal provider of care for the children
  • recognise the need for children to have a home and make an Occupation Order or Tenancy Order allowing the partner who is the principal provider of care for the children to keep possession of the family home
  • recognise the need for children to have suitable furniture and make a Furniture Order granting either spouse or partner the possession and use of specific furniture.

What happens if relationship property has been transferred to a trust?

Property (Relationships) Act 1976, s 44C

If a partner transfers relationship property to a trust so it’s no longer relationship property, then the court may order compensation if they think it would be fair:

  • payment of a sum of money to the other partner out of relationship property or separate property, or
  • transfer of relationship property or separate property to the other partner, or
  • payment of income from the trust to the other partner.

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Relationships and break-ups

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Family Court

This Family Court provides a range of information relevant to adult relationships, including information on separation, dissolution, relationship property and the relevant court processes.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/family/separation-divorce
Application for a dissolution of marriage (divorce): www.justice.govt.nz/family/separation-divorce/apply-for-a-divorce

Births, Death & Marriages (Department of Internal Affairs)

Births, Death and Marriages have information about marriages and civil unions. You can also apply online for your marriage licence or download the application forms.

Website: www.govt.nz/organisations/births-deaths-and-marriages
Email: bdm@dia.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 22 52 52

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens when your relationship ends.

Information on separation, divorce, care of children and maintenance: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/what-happens-when-your-relationship-breaks-up

Information on dividing up relationship property: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/dividing-up-relationship-property

Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)

Relationships often have a significant impact on personal finances. For information on how your changing relationship status might affect what benefits you are entitled to, contact Work and Income.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 559 009

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