Getting the facts about your financial situation

You have the right to disclosure of information from the opposing party, such as financial information about your spouse’s business or their pension scheme.  This step can often cause delays in the settlement of relationship property, when parties are not forthcoming with information.  We help clients avoid delays by proactively managing requests for information and applying to the Family Court if necessary.

Splitting our assets

When couples separate, the law generally presumes a 50/50 division of the family home and chattels.  However the Court has the power to order unequal distribution of property, for example a 60/40 split if they consider there is economic disparity between the parties. The Court will consider the income earning capacity of each party, along with their responsibility for care of children and other relevant information. For more information see our section on relationship property.  We will advise you how your case is likely to be viewed by the court.

Can my spouse make me leave the family home?

No, you don’t have to leave your family home.  In fact we recommend that our clients stay in the home with their spouse until agreement has been reached on key matters. For example, how the relationship property will be split and child care arrangements. It is always much harder to reach agreement on these issues once one party leaves the home.   The exception to this is if there has been family violence that has resulted in an order against you, such as a Police Safety Order, Protection Order or Parenting Order. These orders may state that you cannot return to the family home.  Also, you will have to leave if this is stated in an Occupation Order, Tenancy Order or a Property Order issued by the Court.

Can my spouse change the locks?

This depends on the circumstances.  If you are entitled to stay in your home after separation, (see the question above), then your spouse is not entitled to change the locks. Once you move out, there may be circumstances in which they are entitled to change the locks. We recommend that you consult a lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case. Relevant facts might include; what has been agreed with regard to the occupancy of the home, the length of time you have been separated and length of time you have not been living in the family home.

Do I have to pay my ex spouse money after we have split up?

Providing financial support to a spouse after a break up is called spousal maintenance or financial support.  Spousal maintenance will be required if the other party is unable to meet their own reasonable needs.  This is a temporary situation which generally lasts 1-2 years. The amount can be agreed on by the parties or decided in Court. If your spouse requests financial support, they need to support their request with a detailed budget of their expenses.  Our household budget guide lists the type of expenses that would generally be included. See our section on spousal maintenance for further information.  

Affording a lawyer

You have a right to your own independent lawyer.  If you can’t afford a lawyer privately, then you may be eligible for legal aid. Legal aid is a loan and not a grant by the state. For more information see visit the Ministry of Justice website.

“The information posted on this website is prepared for a general audience, without investigation into the facts of any particular case. This information is no substitute for legal advice and does not create a lawyer-client relationship; you are advised to consult with a lawyer on any legal issue.”