New Zealanders based overseas (ex-pats) who are in a relationship can find themselves caught by New Zealand relationship property law when their relationship ends.

Under the Property (Relationships) Act (Act), when a couple separate, all of the property acquired during that relationship can fall under the equal sharing rule, apart from overseas real estate.

This applies whether or not the “partner” has ever lived in New Zealand.  As an example of how property might be caught, an offshore based Kiwi in a de facto relationship with a British national purchased an investment property in New Zealand using income and investments built up during their four year relationship, with the intention of returning home to live with their partner to raise a family. Before returning home the couple separated.

The New Zealander arrived back in New Zealand to find the former partner, who remained in the UK, had engaged a lawyer in New Zealand and was claiming a half of the investment property and a share of a superannuation fund built up over the relationship, and a share of the New Zealand and overseas bank accounts.  The claim was successful and the former partner received a sizable cash payment.

To safeguard their property from a relationship property claim, the New Zealander could have put in place a Contracting Out Agreement with their partner.  This process involves having a qualified New Zealand lawyer prepare the agreement and both parties taking independent legal advice.  This can be undertaken remotely.

It is important to act early and have your property protected before the equal sharing provisions under the Act comes into effect at the three year point in a relationship.

If you are living overseas and are in a relationship or about to enter into one, and are unsure of your legal rights and obligations it is important to take legal advice from a suitably qualified New Zealand lawyer for advice ear on so you can protect your property in the event that the relationship ends.

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.