In New Zealand the Property (Relationships) Act is the main piece of law that governs the division of property between couples. 

The general rule is that once you have been in a relationship (de facto, marriage, or civil union) for three years or more, in the event of separation all relationship property is to be divided equally.

The parties may agree to divide their property in a different way, by creating an agreement under provisions of the Act. 

There are four formal requirements for the agreement to be binding:

  • The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties.
  • Each party’s signature must be witnessed by a solicitor.
  • Each party must receive independent legal advice as to the effects and implications of the agreement.
  • The lawyer who witnesses the signature of a party must certify that they have advised as to the effects and implications of the agreement.

If these requirements are not complied with, then there is a risk that parties move on with their lives at first, but several years later one of the parties may want to re-open the discussion around division.

This may come about if one of the parties’ circumstances change, the value of property has changed, or one of the parties has since had legal advice about their entitlement. 

The best way to move on, with certainty about your financial position after a separation, is to get a formal separation agreement put in place.

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.

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.