One of the most important things the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 does is identify what property partners should share when a relationship ends.
The first step is for the partners to take stock of all the property they own, either individually or jointly. The law only applies to conventional forms of property rather than other resources which, although valuable, we would not normally think are property. It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether something counts as property. We want you to tell us what property the law should focus on.
The second step is to work out whether each item of property is relationship property or separate property. We call this process “classification”. This is important because the partners must share relationship property equally when the relationship ends, but each partner gets to keep his or her separate property.
Relationship property will usually include:
- property used by the family, like the family home, furniture, cars; and
- property either partner acquires during the relationship, like savings and superannuation (including KiwiSaver).
Separate property is all other property, but includes:
- property a person owned before the relationship; and
- any gift or inheritance a partner receives.
If the family uses a partner’s separate property, that property will normally become relationship property.
Some property that has particular significance in tikanga Māori will not be relationship property. The law excludes Māori land and some taonga from equal sharing.
We want to learn whether the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 classifies the right type of property as relationship property. In other words, which property should partners share equally at the end of a relationship?
The third step is to look at what debts the partners owe. Like property, a debt can be either a relationship debt or a personal debt.
The partners calculate the total value of relationship property they must share by deducting the value of relationship debts.
We want to hear your answers to several other questions:
- Should the law treat a partner’s ability to earn income as relationship property?
- Should the law treat gifts and inheritances as a special form of separate property?
- What should happen when the value of separate property increases?
- What should happen when a partner receives ACC payments?
- How should the law apply to heirlooms and other special property?
- How should the law apply to student loans?
- What should happen when a partner receives money from a parent?