The Law Commission is reviewing the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (Act). As part of its review, the Law Commission has recently released their preferred approach for changes to the Act (see Law Commission Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976: Preferred Approach (NZLC IP 44, November 2018)) (Issues Paper).
The Law Commission has concluded that there needs to be changes to the Act. The purpose of the Issues Paper is to provide a set of detailed recommendations that are intended to reform the current law to ensure a just division of property at the end of relationships. The Law Commission has summarised the recommendations as follows:
- The family home should no longer always be shared 50/50. Instead, if one partner owned the home before the relationship, only the increase in value during the relationship should be shared equally between the parties. Homes acquired during the relationship will still be shared equally.
- People who have children, have been together for 10 years or more, or who have built or sacrificed careers because of the relationship should be eligible for Family Income Sharing Arrangements (FISAs). Under a FISA, the partners would be required to share their combined income for a limited period after they separate, to ensure the economic advantages and disadvantages from the relationship are shared more fairly.
- A court should have greater powers to share trust property when a trust holds property that was produced, preserved or enhanced by the relationship.
- The rules should continue to apply to all marriages, civil unions and de facto relationships lasting three years, unless the partners enter into a contracting out agreement.
- Children's best interests should be given greater priority under the Act. This includes giving the primary caregiver of children a default right to stay in the family home in the period immediately following separation.
- There should be a range of measures to promote the just and efficient resolution of relationship property matters and to address behaviour that causes delay and increases costs. This includes making sure partners properly disclose to each other all relevant information about their property, whether or not they go to court.
The Law Commission welcomes any submissions or comments on the Issues Paper by no later than 14 December 2018. Please submit such submissions or comments via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via post (Law Commission, PO Box 2590, Wellington 6140).
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