The High Court has dismissed a claim for the distribution of the proceeds of sale of a property owned by a separated couple.

After the couple separated the family home was sold, and the sale proceeds were held by a solicitor on behalf of the couple. The proceeds of sale were not distributed as the parties were still in dispute.

One of the parties applied to the High Court seeking an interim equal distribution of the sale proceeds and any interest that the proceeds had accrued while being held by the solicitor.  

The application was made on the basis that if funds equivalent to the value of the dispute were held to one side, then the balance of funds must be non-contentious and could therefore be distributed.

However, the other party defended the application, claiming that the Family Court has the exclusive right to determine relationship property matters, and that the High Court should therefore dismiss the application. 

They argued that the question before the Court was whether the sale proceeds of the family home should be classified as separate property or relationship property. If the sale proceeds were classified as relationship property the Family Court would have sole jurisdiction.

The application was dismissed.  It was decided that the High Court did not have jurisdiction, as the proceeds were deemed to be relationship property and the Family Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine matters regarding relationship property.

The Judge also stated that even if the High Court had the jurisdiction to decide on the matter, it would be inappropriate to make an interim order, as the respondent to the application wouldn’t be given a chance to present their argument.

The moral here is that there are no short cuts to the process – when there is a dispute before the Family Court it must be dealt with properly and fairly.

If there is confusion around the distribution of relationship property, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.