The Law Commission is seeking a feedback on its latest recommendation to amend divorce laws and property division.

The Law Commission has published its proposals to reform the 42-year-old law about dividing property when relationships end.

The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (PRA) sets out the rules for how property is to be divided when relationships end.

Last year, the Commission published an Issues Paper and asked the public to comment on whether they thought the law was working well in contemporary New Zealand.

Many who commented thought some aspects of the law needed to change.

The Law Commission has now published a Preferred Approach Paper - Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976: Preferred Approach: TeArotakeite Property (Relationships) Act 1976: He ArongaiMariuai. In this paper, the Commission sets out its preferred approach on the key issues arising from its review of the PRA and asks for feedback on them.

The feedback can be given until December 14, 2018, and the Law Commission will publish its Final Report in 2019.

Commissioner Helen McQueen is saying that these proposed changes are intended to help separating couples, going through emotional upheaval and intends to be fair to both parties.

“We have developed a package of reforms that we think reflects those expectations and updates the law for contemporary New Zealand,” Ms McQueen said.

One major suggestion is that that the family home should no longer always be shared 50/50. If a partner owned the house before the start of the marriage then only the increase in value during the relationship should be shared.

Other Key proposals include:

  1. 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 or “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.
  2. A court should have greater powers to share trust property when a trust holds property that was produced, preserved or enhanced by the relationship.
  3. 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.
  4. Partners should still be entitled to share equally in all relationship property, subject to limited exceptions.
  5. Children’s best interests should be given greater priority under the PRA. This includes giving the primary caregiver of children a default right to stay in the family home in the period immediately following separation.
  6. A range of measures to promote the just and efficient resolution of PRA 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.
  7. Developing a comprehensive information guide for separating partners that explains the law and provides information about the different options available for resolving a dispute. Funding for community organisations to provide person to person support should also be considered.