Relationship Property

This applies to people who are married, in civil unions, de facto and same sex relationships. The Property (Relationships) Act creates a legal set of rules for the definition, sharing and division of relationship property between the parties, which apply to situations of separation or death.

A presumption of equal sharing of relationship property generally exists once the relationship has lasted for three years, however it can be less in in some cases, such as if there is a child of the relationship.

Contracting Out of the Relationship Property Act

We can prepare legally binding agreements (Contracting-out or Pre-nuptial Agreements) to allow you to change the legal rules that apply to your relationship. You can contract out of the Act, either totally or partly, depending on what the two of you wish. We can redefine property that will remain separate and create a different set of rules tailored to your relationship and agreed wishes.

Agreements can be prepared and signed before or during the relationship, civil union, or marriage. It is best to do this sooner rather than later, to make sure you are both “on the same page”.


The best way to resolve issues arising upon separation is to negotiate and conclude a binding Relationship Property Agreement. We can advise and represent you, to help achieve the best result.

While equal sharing of relationship property after 3 years is the most common result, there are various exceptions to the equal sharing rules. For example, an adjustment can be made for economic disparity between the parties upon separation. Spousal maintenance can be sought where one partner is worse off because of the division of functions between the parties during their time together. Contact us for further advice.

Independent Legal Advice

We can give you expert and independent advice about your legal rights, obligations and options. Inall cases, each partner requires independent legal advice, if an Agreement made under the Property (Relationships) Act is to be legally binding.

Court Proceedings

An application to divide relationship property should be made to the Family Court within 12 months of Dissolution of marriage (divorce), so if agreement cannot be reached, this needs to be kept in mind.

The Court can extend that time limit in appropriate cases.

Dissolution of Marriage (divorce)

Once a couple have been separated for two years (excluding any period of living together for up to 3 months in an attempt to reconcile) then either or both of them may apply to dissolve the marriage. The application will be granted if the marriage has broken down irreconcilably. Once the Order is made, the parties are free to remarry.

Estate Claims

1. The Family Protection Act allows claims to be made against the Estate of a person who has passed away by relatives who are owed a duty whether there is a valid will or not.

2. The Law Reform Testamentary Promises Act allows claims against Estates to be made by anyone who has carried out work or services for the deceased and not yet been compensated.

3. Time limits apply to both such claims, so enquiries should be made promptly.

How we work.

Sometimes, Court proceedings are necessary or unavoidable. We at AFL have the skill and experience to help guide clients through the legal process as effectively and efficiently as possible. Most of our cases are, however, resolved by negotiation or mediation. These methods allow the greatest amount of control to the people directly involved.

The risk of having a stranger, such as a Judge, impose a decision is that it is very difficult for a stranger to take into account all the relevant factors or complexities. The Judge only gets a “snap-shot” of the case, based upon the evidence presented. This should be a last resort, as a solution imposed in such a way, even with the best of intentions, may not really suit anyone involved. It almost certainly will not suit everyone involved. It may be a win/lose result.

People will often work harder to make a decision succeed if they have been actively involved in making the decision, perhaps making reasoned and pragmatic compromises where necessary. Then they share more “ownership “ of the decision, which is more likely to be a lasting solution than one imposed from outside.

Graeme Stanton

  • Professional

    Graeme Stanton has practised law since 1984, as an employee or partner of Law Firms in Auckland,Whangarei, Manukau and Pukekohe. He has represented clients in all Family and District Courts in the Auckland area and also elsewhere in New Zealand.
    He has appeared in the Auckland High Court to successfully defend and prosecute appeals.

  • Personal

    Graeme has raised four children to their teenage and adult years. He can relate directly to the issues confronting parents and children. He appreciates that understanding and respecting the views of others are critical skills in helping to resolve issues fairly.
    His empathy and the lessons learned from various life experiences, are valuable attributes he can use to help others to solve their problems.

  • Areas of Expertise

    While focussing mainly on Relationship Property and Family law, he also has a great deal of experience and expertise in Employment, Criminal, Traffic Cases and Civil and Property disputes. He has prepared many Powers of Attorney, Trusts and Wills.

    He has practised in the areas of Commercial Law and Conveyancing, Estate Administration. He has prepared many Agreements and Contracts of all kinds.

    He knows the Legal system well.