Strategies, Solutions & Resolution
HOW CAN WE HELP?
T. 09 475 6410
Family law

Separation

Separating from your partner or spouse is a life changing event and can be one of the most difficult times of your life.  Just as how every family and relationship is different, there is no one size fits all separation.  We will discuss with you all of the issues that have arisen from your separation.  Court is only one option to resolving these issues.  We are also experienced in other dispute resolution processes such as Mediation, Negotiation or a Collaborative Approach. Contact us on to discuss your separation. 

Some issues you may face include:

Children

There are changes occurring with the Family Court and how applications relating to children are dealt with.  The new Family Dispute Resolution process are taking lawyers out of the Courtroom and leaving it up to the parents to represent themselves.  There will be limited circumstances where you will be entitled to a lawyer to be present with you in Court.

However, there is no restriction in seeking advice beforehand or during the process so that you are prepared to negotiate your case with the other parent.  Being prepared and knowing your options and different outcomes will allow you to focus on what is important – your children.  

Care and contact arrangements

Specific consideration is required as to what will constitute a suitable care regime for your children.  This will depend on the children's ages and their present day to day needs.  We have significant experience in advising parents on what options are available.  If necessary we can discuss with you the Family Court process to assist parents in resolving any disputes as to parenting arrangements.

Child support

IRD provides how child support is calculated.  From April 2015, new Child Support Rules will start, with further changes in 2016.  The old formula of 'shared care' will change and both parties’ salaries in certain circumstances will apply.

The Child Support regime provides for a right of review of the formula when certain grounds are made out.  We can advise you on these grounds and how to present your application.

Guardianship rights

If you are a parent/legal guardian of a child, your rights as a guardian continue on separation. Guardianship decisions should be made jointly and in consultation with the other guardian(s). Guardianship decisions include where your child or children should live, the schools they attend and the health care they receive. Disputes often arise over guardianship issues (for instance, one parent wishing to relocate to a new town or overseas).  We can advise you on the processes involved in resolving disputes between guardians and assist you with the Family Court process should the matter require the Court's assistance for resolution. 

Property

Advising a party of his/her property rights on separation is an increasingly complex area of legal practice.  It is extremely important for a party to a separation to understand what their entitlements are and how best to achieve those entitlements.  

The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 allows a couple who separate to enter into a binding Relationship Property Agreement setting out the agreed division of relationship property. For such an Agreement to be valid and binding, each party must obtain independent legal advice. We assist clients in the process of separation to determine what their property entitlements are. 

Relationship property

The first step is to classify what is relationship property.  There is a common misconception that all property owned by either partner/spouse is relationship property.  This is not always the case.  



Not all property owned by parties to a relationship will qualify for a division under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.  Classification of property often depends on its origin.  While, generally speaking, relationship property is to be divided equally, the Act provides exceptions to this rule and at times it may be appropriate for an unequal division of relationship property to occur.  



Special status is given to the family home and family chattels.  Complications often arise with the valuation process especially for businesses and superannuation interests.  We have significant experience in advising on relationship property division and in implementing strategies and solutions with a view to obtaining a fair and just division of your property.  

Separate property

Property not classified as relationship property is separate property.  This may consist of property brought into the relationship by one party, property acquired by inheritance or by way of gift or from a Trust settled by a third party.  Separate property is not subject to the equal division rules required by the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, but there may be circumstances when separate property or its increase in value during the relationship may be classified as relationship property. 

Debts

Just as assets are to be divided as at date of separation, so normally are liabilities .  It is important to ascertain if debts incurred are personal debts or relationship debts.  A party to separation is not liable for the personal debts of their partner.

Economic disparity

The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 provides that contributions, both monetary and non-monetary towards a relationship are of equal value.  One partner to a relationship may put their career on hold to assume the primary caregiving role of children.  The result will be that as at the date of separation, one partner to a relationship may enjoy a higher income and living standard than the other partner because of the effect of the division of functions within the relationship.  This may result in a claim by one party for economic disparity.  We can discuss with you the circumstances when this may be appropriate.    

Trusts

Family Trusts in New Zealand are common.  Often a family home is owned by a Trust and also other significant property including shares and superannuation may be owned by a Trust.  Notwithstanding the fact that Trust property is not normally treated as relationship property, remedies are available in limited circumstances in relation to Trust property.  Careful consideration needs to be given as to the remedies sought.  This area of law is continuing to develop and we have the legal experience required to examine the remedies available to you should it be necessary to bring a claim against property owned by a Trust.



For Division of Property on Death, refer to Estate Issues

Maintenance

Whether you were in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship, spousal maintenance obligations or rights may arise.  We will advise you as to the level of maintenance you may seek from your partner and assist you in assessing your financial needs in the future. 

We have the experience necessary to assist you in assessing your financial needs and what level of financial support would be appropriate from your partner. We are experienced in bringing Maintenance Applications before the Family Court on behalf of our clients.

Spousal Maintenance

The circumstances in which a partner to a relationship may be entitled to spousal maintenance will vary depending on both your financial circumstances and your partner's financial circumstances.  

Interim Spousal Maintenance

In some situations it may be appropriate for an urgent application to be made to the Family Court seeking an Interim Spousal Maintenance Order for a review of your financial circumstances.  



We have the experience necessary to assist you in assessing your financial needs and what level of financial support would be appropriate from your partner.  We are experienced in bringing Maintenance Applications before the Family Court on behalf of our clients.