The family home is often the most valuable asset couples own in a relationship, so it is important to know what can happen to it when they separate.

The presumption under the law is that, in a relationship of over 3 years, the property is to be shared equally between the couple.

Who is included by the Property (Relationships) Act 1976?

Relationships over three years in duration are qualifying relationships and governed by the rules set out in the Act. Relationships include de-facto couples, marriages and civil unions.

When you separate after being together for at least three years, the position under the Act is that all relationship property is to be shared and split equally between the parties, unless one of the limited exceptions applies.

Relationship property includes everything acquired during the relationship, as well as items acquired by one party before the relationship that are subsequently used for the benefit of the relationship.

What is the ‘Family Home’?

The family home is the place that has been the main residence of the couple during the relationship. The status of the home as relationship property applies regardless of the parties separate contributions to the purchase, or if one party owned it prior to the relationship beginning.

The result on separation is that the value of the equity in the family home is to be split equally between the couple. This can be done in a few ways, including one party buying out the other of their half share or an open market sale with the proceeds split equally between them.

If you cannot agree on how to distribute the property you can apply to the Court to make an order for division on your behalf.

How can I protect my interest?

The Act also allows couples to decide if they do not want equal sharing to apply to all or some of their assets, provided they meet the validity requirements when executing the Agreement. This is called “contracting out” of the law.

When you have significant assets, including any property that is to be used as the place of residence for the family, you should consider ways to protect your interest against these rules. You can “ring-fence” your interest, entering into a Contracting Out Agreement with your partner before the relationship reaches the 3 year mark. You can still enter into an agreement after the three years, but if your partner does not agree, you are stuck with the rules under the Act.

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.


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