Divorcing or separating? 7 reasons why you need an end of relationship agreement

10 October, 2014 | Smith and Partners

Your marriage, civil union or de facto relationship has ended. It may be tempting to ignore property and legal issues and “muddle-through” or simply walk away, but that could leave you wide open to future claims, complication and loss.

It is in your best interest to formalise an agreement about assets and debts as soon as possible. Otherwise, you face the following risks:

1. Relationship Property Law is complex

Without quality advice, you may miss out on significant entitlements that you are not aware of. Or worse, you may end up with more liabilities than you should, or hidden liabilities down the track.

2. Uncertainty

If the formal requirements of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 are not met, then no agreement is binding, and there remains a potential claim against you and your property. The potential claims exist regardless of whether your ex’s name is on the title.

3. Indefinite Potential for Claims

If an ex-spouse or partner wants to claim under the Act they can do so within two years of the end of the marriage or relationship. However the Court has discretion to allow leave permission to apply to the Court well after that period, and they use that discretion generously.

4. Interference with Property Dealings

An ex-partner or spouse may also lodge a notice of claim or caveat to protect a potential interest at any time. That will stop you dealing with the property until the issues are resolved either through the Court or by agreement.

5. Banks

Lenders are highly unlikely to lend to you, or allow you to refinance if there are unresolved potential claims and no formal agreement.

6. Estates

Some of the most corrosive estate disputes are when the person has died leaving unresolved relationship property issues. Generally, these take “first bite” in the Court’s division, leaving your intended beneficiaries with less.

7. Expense

It is much more costly to have to divide property through the Court process or years after the relevant information is easily available. It is usually most cost-effective to negotiate and formalise your separation agreement at the time.

There are strict legal requirements outlined in Section 21 of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 that must be met in order to ensure you are protected from future problems. To be valid, there must be full disclosure on both sides, and separate lawyers to give you proper independent advice about your entitlements under the law.

A formal agreement is much easier to negotiate and put together with the right advice from an experienced family lawyer, and could save you and your family future heartache and stress.

Remember — Early and specialist legal advice is your best protection in a separation.

Do you need an end of relationship agreement?
If you would like to become a client of Smith and Partners and get help with your separation, please contact our family team on 09 837 6883 or email partners@smithpartners.co.nz to set up an appointment to discuss your separation.

We will require a retainer to be paid prior to your first meeting, and we cannot assist with legal aid matters. Please note that, in accordance with our obligations under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, we cannot provide legal advice unless you have become a client of Smith and Partners and have received our Terms & Conditions of Engagement and Info for Clients.

Do you need an end of relationship agreement?

Protect yourself and your family – contact our family lawyers today to set up an appointment.

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