When people separate, an important thing for them to consider is how the property of the relationship is to be divided. 

In New Zealand there are two clear paths that people can take to ensure that there is finality to their Relationship Property division.

The first option is a Relationship Property Agreement. The second option if an agreement is not possible is an order from the Family Court dividing the property. 

Both of these options have positive and negative aspects, however as a general rule it is best to try to negotiate as much as you can with the other party to come to an agreement, to save costs and time. Going to Court should be a last resort.

The most cost and time effective way of dividing the Relationship Property in a formal manner is negotiating and agreeing to division of property under a Relationship Property and Separation Agreement.  In order to make the Agreement valid it:

  • must be in writing;
  • must be signed by a lawyer for each of the parties; and
  • a lawyer must also give their client independent advice and it must be set out in the Agreement that the parties have received that independent advice.

Court applications to divide property and the proceedings can typically take between 12 to 24 months to be heard.  A Relationship Property and Separation Agreement usually takes much less time to finalise, provided that the parties can negotiate. 

It is often the case when you apply for a division of Relationship Property in Court it is because you can no longer negotiate with the other party. 

The Court does like to see that attempts have been made by the separated parties to try and settle Relationship Property out of Court before applications are filed. 

Going to Court also means that there is a strong likelihood that a Judge will make a decision as to how the property will be divided.  The result of this is that the parties lose the ability to control the terms of division.  Under a Relationship Property and Separation Agreement, the parties still have some control over how their property will be divided.

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.

Shaun Cousins
Family Lawyer

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.