The Law Commission has commenced an extensive review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 which will involve wide consultation before a planned final report in November 2018.
An Issues Paper, Dividing Relationship property - Time for Change? Te mātaoha rawa tokorau - Kua eke te wā?, has been released. Pointing out that it is now 40 years since the Act's inception, the paper asks whether the PRA rules are operating appropriately in contemporary New Zealand. "Is the PRA achieving a just division of property at the end of relationships?".
"The Act was amended in 2001 and 2005 to extend its application to civil unions and defacto partnerships but has not been comprehensively reviewed since its inception. Over time the Act affects almost every New Zealander, both adults and children, and as such it should be reviewed to ensure that it is operating appropriately and effectively," the Commission says.
The review was instigated in December 2015 by the Minister responsible for the Law Commission, Amy Adams, with a wide-ranging set of terms of reference. The Commission says it has extensively researched the history of the PRA and reviewed case law, commentary and court data to understand how Act is operating in practice.
The research has included a look at international experiences and the social context of the legislation.
The Commission says the Terms of Reference do not include other areas of family and social legislation such as the child support regime in the Child Support Act 1991, the maintenance regime in the Family Proceedings Act 1980 or the social security regime in the Social Security Act 1964.
"We cannot, however, consider the PRA in isolation from these regimes, as they each play an important role in supporting partners and children at the end of a relationship."
The Law Commission is now calling for submissions, which may be submitted online, by email or by post.