What is relationship property under New Zealand law?

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Knowing what is and isn’t relationship property is key to understanding how property is divided after separation (or death).  This is because only relationship property is always divided.  

Separate property is not divided. Find details on what is considered separate property here.

The way the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 works can be complicated – which is why it’s always a great idea to come and talk to us.  For now, here’s a simple overview to summarise the most important rules.  

Some examples of relationship property are:

  • Essential family property, such as the home that the couple live in, called the family home, and family chattels (furniture, household appliances, cars used for family purposes, pets, etc)
  • Property acquired during the relationship
  • Wages or salary received during the relationship
  • Property owned jointly or in equal shares
  • The part of the KiwiSaver scheme that was obtained from contributions during the relationship.  That means that the parts of the KiwiSaver scheme that were obtained before the relationship began and after the separation date are separate property.

For the family home and family chattels, it does not matter that this property was owned by one of the partners before the relationship began – this property will always be relationship property.  

What is a Contracting Out Agreement?

This makes it important to contract out of the Property (Relationships) Act if you own the house used as the family home because otherwise it will be shared.  A contracting out agreement is also called a relationship property agreement, prenup, or prenuptial agreement.

by Clinton Light, Special Counsel, Shine Lawyers, Christchurch. 

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