Separation of assets: how does this work after a short relationship ends?

Shine Lawyers New Zealand - Right Wrong

Separating assets after a relationship ends can be complex and the rules for dividing relationship property are different if it was a short relationship.

Here we explain short relationships, property division based on your contribution to the relationship and how the Courts determine the separation of assets.

What is a short relationship?

A short relationship, or “relationship of short duration” is a relationship where the partners have lived together or have been married for less than three years.

If you lived together in a de facto relationship before getting married, this period of time is also included in your “marriage period”. This means most marriages are longer than three years and therefore not considered a short relationship.

How do the Courts determine the separation of assets?

Usually, if the de facto relationship lasts for less than three years, then an order cannot be made under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 for the separation of assets.

However, the Court can make an order for the separation of assets if:

  • There is a child of the de facto relationship; or
  • The applicant has made a substantial contribution to the de facto relationship.

If the Court can make an order, then the share each partner of the relationship is entitled to will be determined according to the contribution each of them made to the relationship.

Substantial contribution – how does this factor into the separation of assets?

“Contributions” to a relationship does not only mean financial contributions; all forms of contributions can be considered by the Court.

For example, contributions can also include:

  • the care of a child of the relationship; and/or
  • staying at home to manage the household or property.

For a short relationship, greater weight is given to the financial contributions because (in general) there hasn’t been sufficient time for the non-financial contributions to build up in value.

What contribution is enough to be a “substantial contribution”?

The definition of “substantial contribution” has fluctuated through the years thanks to case precedents. The most recent finding was Picton v Uxbridge [2015] NZHC 1050 in which Justice Mander said that the words simply mean of “real importance or value”.

Example of contributions

If you owned your home before the relationship began and your partner made minimal financial contributions during your relationship, the relationship property division may be along the lines of 80% to you and 20% to your ex-partner.

However if the contributions are more balanced (even if one person’s contributions are non-financial such as managing the household), the Court may award a more equal division such as a 60% / 40% relationship property split.

Contact Shine Lawyers

Shine Lawyers New Zealand has a wealth of experience in representing clients going through separation. Our experienced relationship property lawyers are driven to achieve the best result possible for each client, ensuring they get the outcome they need to move forward with their lives.

Contact us today to organise an obligation-free consultation to discuss your options.

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