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Winds of Change

The Law Commission has finished its three year review of the law for dividing property on separation under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976. Its long awaited Report was tabled earlier this week in parliament by Justice Minister Andrew Little. In its Report the Law Commission makes 140 recommendations aimed at modernising the law by making the law simpler and fairer, which will be welcomed by many. While a number of existing rules within the Act are still satisfactory, the Act itself has not kept pace with social change in our country over the past 43 years, as a result it is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in 21st century NZ.

Key changes include introducing a new statute (the Relationship Property Act) to cover relationships ending by separation, changing classification of the family home, streamlining the law for eligibility to the new Act, introducing family income sharing arrangements, giving the court greater powers to divide trust property where a trust holds property that was produced, preserved or enhanced by the relationship, giving children’s best interests greater priority (including rights to occupy the family home immediately post separation) and improving the way relationship property matters are more efficiently resolved in practice.

The Government will now give further consideration to the report, its recommendations and the wider impact of its proposals. Whether this results in the wide sweeping “winds of change” the Law Commission seek remains to be seen, but it appears fairly likely that change will happen.

Further information and a c copy of the Law Commission’s Report is available on its website: https://www.lawcom.govt.nz/our-projects/review-property-relationships-act-1976?id=1589