“In March this year, the High Court also ditched the 50-50 principle in a case involving a man in his 60s and a woman in her late 40s who had a four-year de facto relationship. He owned the house before the woman moved in. Both had been previously married and they agreed to keep their finances separate, but the man paid for all the outgoings on the house, and almost all their holidays. The High Court agreed with the Family Court that it would be “repugnant to justice” or “completely unfair” for the woman to take half of the house – which represented almost all the property available to be split – at the end of their relationship.”  


Auckland divorce law specialist Jeremy Sutton, who highlighted the case on his website, told North & South that because it was a High Court decision only, it didn’t establish a “robust precedent” – for that it would need to go to higher courts.  


“Many divorce lawyers and clients have been fascinated by this decision,” he says. “It does demonstrate that for older parties, there may be greater opportunities to argue unequal sharing where finances are kept separate and there are marked variations in financial contributions. But we’re not yet there – litigants need to continue to challenge in higher courts what constitutes ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to provide a strong precedent for unequal sharing.”  


Published in North & South Magazine, June issue.  


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