New Zealand Law Society - Improving the law for property division when a relationship ends

Improving the law for property division when a relationship ends

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Over the past forty years, New Zealand has changed a lot. This includes the way relationships and families form, how they function and what happens when relationships end.

The Law Commission is reviewing the 40-year-old Property (Relationships) Act, which sets the rules for how to divide a couple’s property at the end of a relationship.

So when should the law treat two people as a couple? What property should they share if they break up and what property should belong to only one of them?

On 16 October the Law Commission will launch a paper asking New Zealanders how the law could be better.

The document is entitled Dividing Relationship Property: Time for Change? - Te mātatoha rawa tokorau – Kua eke te wā?

Commissioner Helen McQueen says dividing property when a relationship ends can be challenging.

“The law needs to help people resolve their relationship property matters in a just and efficient way,” she says.

Some of the questions the Law Commission is asking include:

  • Does the law apply to the right relationships?
  • Is the right property being shared?
  • What should happen when trusts are used to hold property?
  • What should happen if one person is financially worse-off after their relationship ends?
  • Is tikanga Māori recognised?
  • How should the law meet the interests of children?
  • How can the law be inexpensive and simple to apply while still being just?
  • Should the same law that applies when a couple separates also apply when one partner dies?

Public consultation will run until February 2018 and a final report is due by November that year.

"The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 affects nearly every New Zealander, either directly or indirectly. It’s important that everyone has a say," says Helen McQueen.