When a relationship fails, relationship property division can be settled either by agreement between the parties, or by a decision of a Family Court Judge.
As experienced Family lawyers, we try and resolve matters by negotiation and agreement first, but if that cannot be achieved, then proceedings are filed through the Family Court for resolution. There is no “one size fits all” and there is no set timeframe for resolving matters. With goodwill and compromise, the process can be completed within 3-6 months. Without that, the process may take years.
There are a number of steps:
Step 1 – Preliminary Fact Finding
This is the initial phase of meeting and gathering information to determinethe assets and liabilities from the relationship. Without establishing the extent of relationship property, an agreement cannot be reached.
Relationship property includes assets and liabilities acquired during the relationship, such as the family home and contents, motor vehicles, bank accounts, superannuation or KiwiSaver, and various debts like credit card debts and hire‑purchases.
Once the information is gathered, issues can be considered (such as, what is a fair settlement, are there other claims such as spousal maintenance or an economic disparity claim, whether valuations need to be obtained, for example of a family business, shares, or superannuation).
Step 2 – The Negotiation Process
Once the information is available, negotiations commence, with parties making proposals and counter proposals by way of correspondence. At times, it is appropriate for there to be a meeting with both lawyers and the clients as a fast track way of reaching agreement.
Step 3 – Agreement
Once agreement has been reached through negotiations, a formal document called a “Separation and Relationship Property Agreement” is prepared. It will set out the intention of the agreement, what property there is to divide and who retains which property. This agreement must be signed separately and independent legal advice provided by the parties’ lawyers.
Step 4 – Settlement to Give Effect to the Agreement
After the Agreement is signed, there are often other steps that need to be taken to give effect to the Agreement’s terms, such as the transfer of property into one party’s name, resignation as directors and share transfers, winding up of trusts or resettling of trusts, closing joint accounts, transferring life insurance policies, etc.
Step 5 – Future planning
Once settlement has occurred, we can offer experienced strategy about future planning which may include preparing new Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney, setting up new structures for businesses or setting up a Trust.
Each situation is unique so contact our relationship and family law team to find out how we can help you.