The Basics of Relationship Property Division

An estranged couple signing a property division agreementDealing with a failed relationship is already stressful in itself, more so when it requires dividing property. However, it’s something you have to address. Lawyers in Wellington can help make the process go more smoothly, but you should also do your part by knowing the basics.

What law covers relationship property?

Dividing relationship property comes under the rules of the Property (Relationships) Act. It operates on the idea that no one involved should be at the losing end. It applies when a couple separates or one partner dies. It covers couples who are:

  • In a legal marriage
  • Who have entered into a civil union
  • Living together in a domestic relationship for three years or more
  • In a domestic relationship for less than three years, but have had a child together
  • In a domestic relationship for less than three years, but one contributed much more to the relationship than the other has

What is relationship property?

You need to know what types of property falls under the law before you can think about dividing them. Typically, these include:

  • Primary residence, including contents
  • Family vehicle
  • Property acquired by either party during the relationship, except inheritances and gifts unless the recipient uses it to acquire common-use property
  • Property acquired by either party prior to the relationship intended for common use
  • Joint debts
  • Income earnings while in the relationship
  • Insurance on relationship property
  • Life insurance and pensions, including KiwiSaver funds
  • Property deemed by both parties to be relationship property

How do you divide property?

You can choose to agree with your partner about how to divide the property. If that’s not possible, you can apply before the Family Court to do it for you. In this case, the court usually divides the property equally between the partners. The court may make exceptions in cases when an equal division of property seriously puts one party at a disadvantage. For example, the court may order the working parent to pay compensation to a stay-at-home parent.

These are the basic rules for dividing relationship property. They seem simple enough. However, complications may arise, especially if you have children. Lawyers can help make sure both parties get fair treatment.