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  5. How should the law recognise Māori customary marriage?

How should the law recognise Māori customary marriage?

A Māori customary marriage involves partners who marry under tikanga Māori. Whānau approval means a couple are married rather than living together or a formal ceremony.

We do not know how many people in New Zealand are partners in a Māori customary marriage. There is evidence that Māori customary marriages happen but they are not very common.

A Māori customary marriage would probably come under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 because the law would see the partners as in a de facto relationship.

That would mean the property division rules of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 would apply if the couple separated, rather than tikanga Māori values.

Māori customary marriage does not carry with it any rights to property the other partner holds (although manaakitanga may require the whānau to care for a partner and any children).

Whanaungatanga also emphasises that property passes on through descent lines rather than to a partner.

Some people say that, because the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 applies, partners to Māori customary marriages might claim a half-share in the couple’s relationship property. There could be conflict with whānau if, under tikanga Māori, the property more properly belongs to the whānau.

What do you think?

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