If you are separating from your partner, and you or your partner have connections to both New Zealand and the UK, you could find yourself contemplating where to divide your finances. 

You may even be able to choose the jurisdiction which is better for you.

Not married...

It isn’t just a straightforward choice with self-evident consequences.  If you aren’t married, you have very limited recourse in the UK, and can only essentially make an application in respect of a property in the UK, or on behalf of a child to the relationship. 

In these circumstances, provided you have been in a de facto relationship for over three years, you will very likely be better off under New Zealand law.


If you are married, however, you will have a whole suite of claims in both jurisdictions. 

The first thing to consider is your right to apply in the UK or New Zealand.  In the UK, financial claims can only follow an application for divorce, whether obtained in the UK or elsewhere. 

If the divorce was obtained in the UK (see our article here) then you can usually make an application to the UK Court to divide your property as of right. 

If the divorce was obtained elsewhere, then you must apply for permission if you want the UK Court to divide your property.  To do this, you must demonstrate “domicile”, or habitual residence of at least a year in the UK, by either party. 

Alternatively, you must show that either party has a beneficial interest in a house in the UK which has previously been used as the family home.

The right to apply for permission in this regard is currently before the Court of Appeal in the UK, so there may be a review pending.  In practical terms, the right to apply to the UK Courts for division of relationship property after a non-UK divorce may not be a right which is available forever.

In New Zealand, you don’t need to be divorced; you can simply apply to divide your property following separation.  To do so, you or your spouse need to be domiciled in New Zealand, or the owner of real estate in New Zealand.

The key differences in the law arise when it comes to the formula for how property is to be divided. 

In the UK, there is no such formula, as there are many considerations considered by the UK Court, such as needs, contributions, compensation for financial disadvantage, and the welfare of any children involved. 

Claims for an unequal sharing of property are very commonly made in the UK, in reliance on these considerations and principles.   There is a presumption of equal sharing, unless there is a good reason not to, but this is not codified in UK law, and is very often not followed.  

By contrast, there is a presumption in New Zealand law that property will be divided equally.

The clear upshot is that if you are going to have trouble meeting your needs after separation (but your spouse isn’t), you may well be best served by UK law. 

If you are unlikely to struggle, New Zealand law is probably preferable.

It is therefore important to obtain advice from an experienced professional in this 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.