If you are in a successive or contemporaneous relationship here is what you need to know about the division of property.

Successive relationships

It is not uncommon for a person to enter into a new relationship very quickly after they stop living with their previous partner as a couple. If the second relationship does not overlap with the first then the relationship will be considered to be successive.

Generally, once you have been in a qualifying relationship (de facto, marriage or civil union) for three years or more, in the event of separation all relationship property will be divided equally. Relationship property usually includes the family home, vehicles, furniture, pets, jointly-owned property, income earned during the relationship, and relationship debts.

If both relationships meet the above criteria, then the relationship property pool would be divided in chronological order based on when the relationships occurred. For example if a husband and wife separated after a 10 year marriage and the husband then entered into a de facto relationship which lasted over three years, the wife may receive half of the relationship property from the first relationship, while the de facto partner may receive a half share of the relationship property from the second relationship.

This has the biggest impact when there is a family home from the first relationship which is then used for the second relationship also. The first wife and husband in our example would be entitled to half of the value of the family home. The de facto partner would be entitled to a quarter of the value (as only the husband’s half share falls into the relationship property pool of the second relationship).

In most cases people exiting a relationship will divide up their property relatively quickly so that there are no competing claims on the relationship property pool from future partners.

Contemporaneous relationships

A contemporaneous relationship is when someone is having relationships with more than one person at the same time. While it is unlawful to be married or in a civil union with two people, a person can be married or in a civil union with one person, but also have a de facto relationship at the same time with someone else.

Likewise you can be in two de facto relationships contemporaneously, however establishing this can be difficult as generally in order for a relationship to be considered de facto, there must be a mutual commitment to a shared life together and mutual acceptance of exclusivity.

In the event of separation, the relationship property will be divided between the parties, to the extent possible, according to what property is attributable (produced by or owing to) to each relationship.

Another way to attribute property to a relationship is based on time. For instance, if a wife was married to her husband for 6 years and was in a de facto relationship for the last 4 years of the marriage, while contributing to her KiwiSaver during that time, then her husband may claim 3/10 (half of 6/10) of the KiwiSaver, and the de facto partner may claim 2/10 (half of 4/10) of the KiwiSaver.

Where it is not possible to attribute all or any of the property to a particular relationship, then the relationship property pool will be divided in accordance with the contribution of each relationship to the acquisition of the property.

Mikayla Turner

Family Lawyer
Wellington