The law about dividing your things with your ex

Relationships end, for many reasons and when they do, the parties to the relationship are left with the difficult task of resolving the division of their property. In New Zealand we have legislation black letter law, that deals with the division of relationship property, that legislation is called the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

The act is described as being a code, which means that earlier rules presumptions that previously applied to relationship property are superseded by the act.

Relationship property division
In divorce your relationship property is covered by NZ law. We explain

I am Aaron Nicholls and I am the Director of Nicholls Law Limited. We are a law firm on high Street in Aucklands’ CBD. I started practising law in 1996 and the very first client I had, was in relation to drafting an agreement to settle matrimonial property at the end of the parties’ marriage.

The Four Principles of Relationship Property Division

The act has is one of its clearly expressed purposes; to provide for a just (fair) division of relationship property between spouses or partners, when the relationship ends by separation or death and  while doing so take into account the interests of children.

The Act is guided by principles, including

  1. that men and women have equal status,
  2. that all forms of contribution to the partnership, are treated as equal:
  3. that a just division of relationship property has regard to the economic advantages or disadvantages to the partners
  4. That the division of relationship property should be resolved as inexpensively, simply and speedily as is consistent with justice

How to divide your property

There are 2 major ways to divide your relationship property:

  1. You can agree between yourselves how to share your property and the court doesn’t have to be involved. If you want to be able to enforce the agreement through the court, your agreement must be in writing and both of you must have had independent legal advice
  2. If you can’t agree or if you believe your arrangement is unfair or doesn’t work, the Family Court can identify the relationship property, review property valuations you provide and determine an agreed value and how it will be divided between you and your ex-partner.  The Court will put this in a relationship property order.

Does this apply to me?

The Act applies to Couples who’ve been together three years – Married, civil union and de facto couples who’ve been together for at least three years are covered by the equal-sharing rules in the Act. This means the family home, car, and will usually be shared equally between them.

Short-term marriages and civil unions – Married and civil union couples who’ve been together less than three years are covered by the Act. But the presumption of 50-50 sharing may not apply to the assets of the relationship rather contribution will be more relevant (including non-financial contributions).

Short-term de facto relationships usually not covered – De facto couples who’ve been together for less than three years usually aren’t covered by the Act at all. This means that the ordinary rules of property ownership will decide what each person is entitled to. But there are some exceptions to this.


Get more help with Dividing Your Things

Equal Exes Online has written 8 Cornerstones which explain situations that develop during separation and divorce.  Dividing your things is one cornerstone.

Go to our Cornerstone page Dividing Your Things and take the quiz to work out your situation.



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  1. Pingback: How do I tell my husband/wife/partner that I want to separate? - Equal Exes Online

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