What is separate property under New Zealand law?

Shine Lawyers New Zealand - Right Wrong

If you are beginning (or ending) a relationship, chances are you want to protect what you consider solely ‘yours’. Separate property is not divided on separation (or death) and the property remains the property of the person that owns it. 

Separate property definition

Separate property, in a broad sense, is property that is not relationship property.

Property acquired before a relationship is usually separate property.  For example, a house that is used as a rental during the relationship will remain separate property.

This also includes property acquired through an inheritance or from a trust, where the property does not come from the other partner, i.e. it must be from another person/trust.  

Are gifts marital property?

Property received as a gift from a non-partner is also separate property.  For example, if a parent gifts a child money, then that money is separate property.  

Are interspousal gifts marital property?

A gift from a partner is also separate property unless it is used for both partners’ benefit, or it is the family home or a family chattel.  For example, a ring or watch given to a partner would only be used by them and it is therefore separate property.  On the other hand, giving a person a car that is used for the family is a family chattel and therefore relationship property.

Can separate property become relationship property?

There are ways in which separate property can become relationship property.  Property usually loses its status as separate property if it is mixed with relationship property or used for relationship purposes.  

For example, if a person owned a house before the relationship began and the couple moves into the house, it will become the family home and therefore relationship property.  If the couple move out of the home before separation – if, for example, they buy another house and rent the partner’s house out – then the property will again be separate property.  

As a further example, if money received from an inheritance is used to buy a house that is used as the family home, that money will lose its status as separate property.  Repaying a mortgage with separate property usually means that the separate property status of that money is lost.

These examples show why it is so important to have a contracting-out agreement.

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

Contact Shine Lawyers for legal advice

Shine Lawyers New Zealand has a wealth of experience in representing clients going through separation or protecting their assets in a new relationship. Our depth of experience ensures we are able to achieve the best result possible for our clients, helping them get the outcome they need so they can move forward with their lives.

Feel free to phone us to discuss, or make an appointment to come in to meet us, so that we can start helping you to come up with solutions.

Fields marked with an * are required

If required, we gather more details or documents later in the process.

I agree to the Shine Lawyers privacy policy

Meet our team

Our team at Shine Lawyers New Zealand, works tirelessly to achieve great outcomes for clients. Learn more ›

Civil litigation information

We have extensive experience as civil litigation lawyers, and are able to guide you through the process by which legal disputes are resolved in New Zealand. Learn more ›

General Insurance Claims

We have years of experience dealing with New Zealand insurers and can help you understand the insurance landscape. Learn more ›

Contact us

We are civil litigation and insurance claims experts based in Auckland and operating throughout New Zealand. Contact us today to see how we can assist. Learn more ›