Is New Zealand's law governing property when relationships break down fit for purpose?

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1 NEWS

Marriage and children are by no means defining aspects of modern New Zealand relationships, but the law which governs what happens when couples break-up may not have kept up with the times.

There are significantly more couples in de facto relationships and children born to unmarried parents than in the past.
Source: 1 NEWS

The Zealand Law Commission is undertaking a review of how people's assets are divided when things go pear-shaped in relationships - and whether a fifty-fifty split is the way to go.

"One example would be the way a couple manages their financial affairs with some people suggesting that if people keep their affairs separate it's not appropriate for their to be property consequences of an equal sharing nature if that relationship stops," law commissioner Helen McQueen says.

Many lawyers also agree New Zealand law needs to move with the evolving nature of marriage and defacto relationships.

"We see them with people later in life who are re-partnering, maybe have children to other relationships, it might even be their third or fourth relationship, who want to protect assets that they've built up not with the person that they are now with," lawyer Caroline Hannan says.

And much has changed over the years in people's attitudes to marriage.

The commission found last year nearly half the children born in New Zealand were to parents neither married nor in a civil union.

And, that a third of all marriages are remarriages.

"You have to have a system that can give certainty be robust and also be flexible because every persons situation is unique no two couples are a like no two families are alike," Hannan says.

The commission's review of the Property Relationships Act launches today and it's seeking people's stories of their break-ups.

A final report for the Government to consider is due out late next year.

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