Separation vs Divorce: What You Should Know

Separation and divorce are difficult topics to talk about and difficult experiences to go through. The difficulty can be a barrier to finding out enough information to make a clear decision and go through the process in the best way for you. One blurred line is the difference between separation and divorce, which isn’t always obvious at first glance. Below you’ll find some of the key information to help you understand the distinction a bit better:

What are the main differences between separation and divorce?

Separation comes before divorce – a couple must agree to separate before they can get a divorce. Once a couple has been separated for at least two years, they can then choose to apply for a divorce.

Separation doesn’t have to be legally formalised a couple can technically separate just by agreeing to separate. While a formalised separation (usually via a separation agreement) can make the process easier for everyone, it’s not a requirement for separation. Meanwhile, a divorce requires a formal declaration from the Family Court, officially called a Dissolution Order.

Divorced couples are no longer married – a couple that separated while married is still considered legally married, even if it has written up a separation agreement or received a court order. A divorced couple is no longer married once the divorce is finalised, and a divorce cannot be reversed.

Non-married couples can separate – formalised separations are still possible – and common – for couples who didn’t marry. A separation agreement is often the best option for formalising the end of a de facto relationship (generally defined as non-married/non-civil union couples that have lived together for at least three years). Divorce is only applicable to marriages and civil unions.

Separation gives you time to reconsider & decide on relationship property – separation gives time to reconsider things, as well as making decisions on dividing relationship property. It is not advisable to apply for a divorce if you’ve not resolved your relationship property division. Upon divorce, a couple generally has just 12 months to agree on their own division of relationship property, otherwise the default equal sharing principle will apply.


Download our free guide to Separation Agreements

How does separation work?

A couple is generally considered to be “separated” when it’s no longer living together as a couple, and either or both people intend to be separated. Separation can even apply where the couple is still under the same roof, and intends to be in a separation. Any couple can enter a separation without any official action or legal requirement, but there are options to formalise it.

Separation can be formalised if the couple chooses, through either of two methods:

  • A separation agreement
  • A separation order from the Family Court

A separation agreement is used in almost all cases for formalising a separation, as well as preparing for a divorce, and you can find more information about Separation Agreements here. Separation orders are uncommon, and only where one of the couple doesn’t want to separate. You can apply for a separation order from the Family Court.

How are finances and property treated?

Initially, during a separation, the financial obligations of the couple are considered to be the same as they were before the relationship ended. Any changes (such as to repayments of debts and outgoings) will have to be agreed between the parties. The best way to do this might be with a separation agreement. Without an agreement, the law will split all relationship property between the couple 50-50 by default.

As for the divorce process, a separation agreement usually makes things easier by clearly stating the date of separation, and showing that there has been agreement on the division of relationship property. A couple can still get divorced without an agreement, but will have to make an agreement within 12 months of the divorce if they want to make their own decisions as to how relationship property is divided.

What about our children?

If you and your partner separate, you will need to agree on who has “day-to-day care” of the children and other important decisions. This can be done informally, but we recommend writing up a parenting plan, to clarify and set out the arrangement for looking after the children. There is also a free & popular course called Parenting Through Separation that offers practical advice on this. For a divorce to be finalised, the court will have to be satisfied with the arrangements for day-to-day care and the welfare of the children. Even after a divorce, both parents maintain guardianship of any children born or adopted in the course of the relationship. Guardianship is a legal right to help with decisions around the child’s wellbeing and upbringing.

Why should we formalise things?

If you do not formalise your arrangement either through a separation agreement or a divorce, it can create significant uncertainty for the future. Without an express separation agreement or a finalised divorce, any property claims or disputes between partners could result in a much greater financial loss down the track, and just creates more stress in the process. Getting a separation agreement and the requisite legal advice and certification will give you peace of mind and let you move on with clarity.

Download our free guide to Separation Agreements

How to get a divorce in NZ

To get a divorce in New Zealand, you would need a Dissolution Order through the Family Court. The only requirement to apply is that you have been separated (i.e living apart) for at least two years, and that one of the parties is considered “domiciled” in New Zealand, which effectively means that they either live in NZ indefinitely, or were born here and are living overseas temporarily.

Both or one of the parties can make the application to the Family Court. The process is relatively straightforward, and there is further public information available on the Ministry of Justice website.

There is also an excellent guide to divorce in New Zealand on MoneyHub, check it out here.


How can Agreeable help?

Separating is already a difficult process and we know the thought of involving lawyers only adds more stress. You can start wondering: where do we even start? Lawyers are expensive and charge by the hour, how much will it cost? How long will it take? Agreeable was founded to get you a strong agreement and legal advice with as little stress as possible.

  • For $450 you can purchase a separation agreement (click here). The software will lead you step-by-step through creating your own agreement. At the end of a short questionnaire, you’ll be emailed your draft agreement as a Word document.
  • Once completed, our team will work with you make sure the agreement is in the best shape possible.
  • Then, apply for certification with us, and we will arrange two independent lawyers (one for each of you) to certify your agreement (make it legally binding). Best of all, we’ll give you a fixed quote so you know the cost before you commit.

Check out our other articles:

The Property (Relationships) Act: A Handy Guide for Kiwis in 2023

A Guide to Buyouts: How to Buy Out the Mortgage from Your Partner

Five Helpful Tips to Save Time & Money on Certification

 

What is a De Facto Relationship in NZ?

What is a de facto relationship?

In New Zealand, a de facto relationship is defined as a relationship between two people who are over 18, living together, and are not already married or in a civil union with one another. Knowing whether you’re in a de facto relationship or not is important under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, as both partners are entitled to half of the Family Home and other relationship property if they have been in a de facto relationship for over three years.

For some people, it will be obvious that they are in a de facto relationship. For others, however, there can be confusion as to whether they are in a de facto relationship (or about to become one), particularly on the “living together” point. If “living together” needs to be determined by the Court, the following factors can be considered:

  • the duration of the relationship:
  • the nature and extent of common residence:
  • whether or not a sexual relationship exists:
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between the parties:
  • the ownership, use, and acquisition of property:
  • the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life:
  • the care and support of children:
  • the performance of household duties:
  • the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

A de facto relationship only has to be officially defined if it gets to Court, and the Court is entitled to use all or just some of the factors listed above, whichever are deemed appropriate in the Court’s view. The Court has found de facto relationships in all sorts of cases, such as between people who do not usually live under the same roof, or even between people who were divorced overseas but still live under the same roof. It is a complicated exercise!

de facto relationship nz

Are we in a de facto relationship?

If you are deciding whether your relationship is de facto, read the factors listed above. If you meet even just several of those factors you may be best to treat the relationship as de facto, for example if you are considering whether or not you need a prenup. If you are quite sure that your relationship is not yet de facto, you may be best to consult a lawyer to get reassurance on this. If you would like some specific information initially, feel free to contact the Agreeable team and we will get you on the right track.

Why are de facto relationships important?

Once a couple has been in a de facto relationship for three or more years, each partner would become immediately entitled to an equal share of the relationship property upon separation or death. This means that, if either person does have assets that they would like to remain theirs if the relationship ends, such as their house, their Kiwisaver, or their business, then that person would need to get a Relationship Property Agreement (also known as an “RPA”, “prenup” or “contracting out agreement”).


Considering a prenup/contracting out agreement? Save over $1,000 and weeks of time with Agreeable. Click here to find out more.


An RPA allows each of you to set out which assets would be yours in the event of separation or death, removing the possibility of a trip to Family Court for one partner to claim their share. If you speak to anyone that has gone to court for a relationship property case, they will tell you that an RPA, while not the most romantic thing to discuss, could save you significant amounts of time, money, and stress down the track.

What if we’ve kept our finances completely separate?

Your relationship can potentially be defined as de facto even if you’ve kept your finances completely separate. In the case of Watene v Lord [2017], the Court found that keeping bank accounts and finances separate was not necessarily an indicator of the nature of the relationship. Some of the other factors mentioned above may outweigh the fact that the finances were separate, and this can lead to a finding of a de facto relationship.

Get our free guide to Relationship Property Agreements

What if we’ve been on-again and off-again?

The dates when de facto relationships start, pause, restart, and stop can be fluid and difficult to pinpoint. The general rules/law that the Court applies are not black and white. While a couple that has had breaks must generally be in a continuous relationship for three years to be seen as de facto, some stop-start relationships have still been found as continuous, even if one partner doesn’t believe that to be the case. Clearly agreeing on the date that you started being a de facto relationship can save you time & money in the long run.

What else should we know?

  • Relationships under three years: if there is a dependent child in the relationship, regardless of whether both partners are biological parents, the Court may find that a relationship of under three years still requires an order of asset division between the parties. Furthermore, if one party made a substantial contribution to a relationship of under three years, the Court may find that failure to make an order of asset division would be seriously unjust. The share of assets would be based on each partner’s contributions to the relationship.
  • If we know we’re not de facto (yet): the Supreme Court in Sutton v Bell has recently found that one partner putting a property in a trust before becoming de facto can still lead to that property being claimed by the other partner upon separation. The fact that there was a clear and present intention to progress to a de facto relationship was relevant to the Court in allowing a claim. At the very least, the parties should have contracted out with a relationship property agreement, even before becoming de facto, to avoid going to court.

Check out our other articles:

What is a Contracting Out Agreement? 10 Things to Know

A Guide to the Property (Relationships) Act 1976

How to Buy Out Your Partner from the Mortgage

What is a “buy out”?

A mortgage buy out is one solution if you and your partner separate but still have mortgage obligations and one partner wants to keep the house. A buy out involves one partner purchasing the equity interest of the other. It can be done relatively easily in New Zealand with a separation agreement.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about mortgage buy outs. If you still have a question, feel free to get in touch with Agreeable’s team and we will be happy to help!

Need a Separation Agreement? Click here to learn more about Agreeable’s online service.

 

Steps to buying your partner out

To buy someone out of a house, you need to be able to take on the whole mortgage yourself, and have enough to pay your partner for their share of the equity in the property. Here are some steps that we recommend taking:

  1. You’ve already made a great start by reading this article. For more general information on separation, we also recommend MoneyHub NZ’s guide here.
  2. Get a valuation on the family home or properties to be divided. You can simply agree on the value and use this as the basis of your agreement, but a valuation is best if there is any doubt, or just to be sure.
  3. Agree on your partner’s “buy out price”. Typically, this is the equity that you hold in the home (home value less the mortgage balance) divided by two. However, some Kiwis like to adjust this figure based on the parties’ contributions to the deposit or mortgage payments. There isn’t necessarily a right answer, as long as it is fair and you both agree.
  4. Get a separation agreement built & certified with Agreeable. Most banks require a separation agreement to change the mortgage over. Agreeable is New Zealand’s fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to build an agreement, and we also connect you to two lawyers (one each) for the online advice & certification. We provide it all at a fixed cost, and online, so you don’t have to leave home! Kiwis usually save over $1,000 by certifying with Agreeable, compared to the “traditional” way.
  5. Settle your new mortgage (if necessary).


 

Download our free guide to Separation Agreements

The first question to ask:

The first question you should ask yourself is if you are financially in a position to afford the mortgage payments. Secondly, will the bank agree to you being the sole mortgagee?

Note that when you separate, you are (usually) splitting half the proceeds from whatever you both sell – including the Family Home. You are left with half (or thereabouts) and must start a new life on this amount. Think carefully before committing to selling the Family Home. It may be a better financial decision to buy out your partner – or not depending on your own financial situation.

Is your partner buying out your share?

If your spouse wants to keep the home, make sure you obtain an appraisal if you cannot agree on the value of the Family Home. Also, you may have to adjust to the fact that it is no longer your home and this may mean unfamiliar people living in it.

Your obligations to the bank

If you are the party being released from your mortgagee obligations, ask for the bank’s proof that they have discharged you from your obligations i.e. check you are no longer on the mortgage.

This may need to be done after you have obtained a Separation Agreement, as some banks request to see this for obvious reasons before they take one partner’s name off the mortgage.

What are your other options if you cannot afford the mortgage yourself?

If your mortgage payments are almost paid off and you and your partner are on amicable terms, then you could agree to continue to pay the mortgage until it ends.

This is ideal and possibly not the option many can take. In this situation, it may still be untenable for your partner to stay living in the house while you both pay off the mortgage. In this case, the partner who is having their share bought out, will have to negotiate rent.

Can you substitute someone else on the mortgage?

It will be hard to sell the Family Home with negative equity. Unless you are able to negotiate other terms with your mortgage provider then you will both continue to be liable for the mortgage repayments. Potentially you could substitute your spouse for other family members or friends who are interested or able to support you in the mortgage if you decide to keep the house. If you decide to go with this option, it is a good idea first to have already brought-out your spouse.

Buy Out Divorce Separation 
The Family Home is relationship property, and after separating, you may be thinking about buying out your partner’s share to keep it.

What will the buy out price be?

A buy out means you must identify the equity in the property – the difference between the mortgage balance and what the property is currently
worth.

It’s not always going to be an equal split when you separate from your partner – you can decide what the most fair buy out price is, as long as you both agree. This may be the case if one partner’s family helped to improve the value of your home by providing money for renovations, or perhaps one of you contributed more to the deposit of the home.

How do you calculate the buy out price?

But assuming that you both contributed equally to both the deposit on the home, and the recurring mortgage payments, this will be a simple calculation.

To clarify, you take the current value of the property (note that you may both want to get property valuers to obtain an accurate market value of the property), subtract the amount outstanding on the mortgage, and any other payments which were not contributions equally by you both, and then divide the remaining amount by two.

Example of buy out calculations

So, for example, if the property is now worth $500,000 and there is, say, $250,000 left to pay on the mortgage, you would need to find $125,000 to buy out your ex-partner’s share of the property.

If, for example, the property is worth $500,000 but $100,000 was provided as a loan by your parents to renovate the house or for the deposit, you will need to pay this back first. Say you have no mortgage on the house and you were to divide the sale of proceeds. This means you and your partner will be splitting $400,000 instead of $500,000.

However, if you were to buy out your partner’s share, and there is still $250,000 left to pay on the mortgage, you will need to pay out the $100,000 first. Assuming the loan was a gift from your parents, this means that you will need $75,000 to buy out your partner.

How to get a valuation on your Family Home or other properties

The buy out price above depends on the value of the home if you are keeping the Family Home. Note that your bank may also want you to get a valuation from a registered property valuer before they refinance the mortgage to you.

Valuation

It is important to get a valuation from a certified registered valuer.  This will determine the market worth of a house or property.

A registered property valuer combines all their knowledge and experience with their observations and research undertaken of the property and its surrounding area, and determines the market value.

A property valuation costs approximately $500 – $800 plus GST. However, a valuation does have a limitation period. This means it will remain “current” only for a limited time, typically three-to-six months. Your ex-partner may agree to split the cost of the valuation.

Certificate of Title

Firstly, it is important to get a copy of the Certificate of Title of your property to check whether your name is on it. Importantly, you will need to get your partner’s name off the Title to the property once they no longer have any interest in it.

For instance, if you do not do this, your partner could put a registered interest against your property (a caveat). In other words, this is a notice that someone else has an interest in this property. This cannot be lifted unless by consent or by a hearing.

What if my name isn’t on the Title?

Meanwhile, if your name is not on the mortgage or deed of the house then that does not mean you have no rights or claims to the property. This means you should talk to a lawyer.

If you have been living in the property or are in a de facto relationship with your partner, this means the Family Home may be relationship property – unless you have a prenuptial agreement or contracting out an agreement in place.

Download our free guide to Separation Agreements

How to work out a Family Home Market Value yourself

Real estate agents

You can ask real estate agents in your area who are experienced and acquainted with properties which are similar to yours. Perhaps ask for a few different estimates from local real estate agents and take the average of these. Just be aware that if these agents are only looking at comparable sales in your area, you will want to take into account differences such as location, exterior presentation, and conditions of the property and any changes in the CV values.

Online sources

In comparison, a more objective estimate may come from the property’s Quotable Value (QV). QV has some great online resources too. There are both free and paid options to purchase local sales reports which may include your property.

Sometimes the rateable value (government valuation of the house) will be accurate as to market value but it cannot be relied on alone. You can find out rateable value information on your local council’s website for free.

Unless a combination of both of the above methods will give you a more accurate estimate of market value you can both rely on, you risk undervaluing or overvaluing the buy out. In short, get as many assessments as you can possibly afford!

Get this written down in a Separation Agreement

Getting everything formalised in an agreement does not have to be expensive. At Agreeable, we can provide you with a Separation Agreement for just $450, saving you hundreds on upfront costs compared to a typical law firm.

Then, separation agreements require certification and independent advice from a separate lawyer for both of you. Agreeable also provides this service online. Apply for certification with us, and we’ll get you a fixed quote for two separate lawyers to certify your agreement, so you’ll know what it costs before committing. If you accept the quote, we’ll connect you both to your lawyers for online advice & signing. It’s the best value, most stress-free way to get a separation agreement in NZ.

Click here to find out more information about the difference between Separation and Divorce.

Having a certified Separation Agreement has a raft of benefits, not least when applying for finance as some lenders may be wary of unresolved relationship property issues. An agreement shows that everything is formalised and agreed upon.

After the buy out

  1. Pay your partner’s buy out price as you have agreed
  2. Refinance the mortgage: as a result of the buy out, you will likely want to or need to refinance the mortgage on your Family Home.

Check out our other articles:

The Property (Relationships) Act: A Handy Guide for Kiwis in 2023

Separation vs Divorce: The Legal Differences You Should Know

What is a Prenup?

A prenup, or prenuptial agreement, is a legal contract between partners that sets out how assets would be divided upon separation or death. Often created before marriage, a prenup agreement sets out the couple’s relationship property and separate property, meaning they get clarity for the future.


 

Why get a Prenup?

 

Commonly referred to as ‘contracting out’, prenups exist to enable partners to opt-out of the equal sharing of relationship property under the Property (Relationships) Act should the relationship or marriage end. They define relationship property, separate property, and property division in the event of a divorce, separation, or death. They are usually premarital agreements, but can also be done after marriage (post-nups). They outline each party’s responsibilities and property rights for the duration of the relationship. Many couples wonder whether they should get a prenuptial agreement. Depending on your situation, it can save a lot of stress (and money) later.

Prenups are growing in popularity in New Zealand, showing that more and more couples consider it normal.

The broad definition of ‘relationship property’ means you could be sharing your financial assets with your long-term partner. Premarital property owned before entering the relationship could become relationship property. This might be a house that you bought before the relationship started.

This could put your financial situation in jeopardy. That is, assuming you do not intend to share your assets with your partner. No doubt if you want to keep the assets you brought into the relationship separate, you should organise a prenuptial agreement. Any property acquired during the relationship is considered marital property or community property. If you’re planning to marry, a prenuptial agreement is only valid if it is completed prior to marriage. Once you’re married, the assets of both parties could be considered marital assets.


Agreeable provides Kiwis with online, easy, and cost-effective prenup agreements – backed by expert lawyers around NZ. Click here to find out more about getting your prenup quickly, easily, and without leaving home!


prenup

When should you get a prenup?

 

The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 applies once the parties have been in a qualifying relationship, and you should try to get the prenup done well before your relationship becomes a qualifying one. However, you can still get one later, even after marriage, just keep in mind that the longer you wait, the higher your certification costs may be as the lawyers will have more to consider around relationship property and the reasons behind the agreement.

These are usually a marriage, a civil union or a de facto partnership for three years. A qualifying relationship under the Act has its own definition.

Factors for a qualifying relationship might include:

  • How long you have been in the relationship;
  • How financially dependent you may be on each other;
  • The ownership and use of shared property;
  • The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life or
  • The reputation and public nature of the relationship.

These factors are only examples.

Download our free guide to Prenup Agreements

prenup agreement nz

Agreeable is New Zealand’s fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to build and certify a prenup agreement.

Am I in a “de facto relationship”?

 

The Act almost definitely applies if a couple has lived together for three years. But it might not be necessary to have lived together for this long or to have a joint bank account to be deemed a couple.

Most noteworthy, in the case of Scragg v Scott [2006] NZFLR 1076, the parties only lived together for short periods because of Mr. Scragg’s overseas work.

Therefore no continuous joint living period occurred of more than nine months. Accordingly, the Judge described their living arrangement as a de facto relationship under the Act.

This was on a broader consideration of the nature of a relationship contained under section 2D of the Act. The Judge considered the mental aspect described as “a commitment to a continuing future relationship.”

What if you live separately from your partner?

 

You might still be in a de facto relationship if you live in separate houses and don’t have share finances or a joint account.

Similarly, the High Court in Moon v Public Trust and Anor [2018] NZHC 1169 expanded the scope of the definition of “de facto relationship”.

Although the parties had lived in their own separate homes, it was still considered a de facto relationship. In addition, the couple shared few common household possessions for the entire 27 years of their relationship. But Justice Powell did not view the lack of common physical assets as going against a relationship.

Instead, the deceased’s health, and the plaintiff’s home-based business made it unreasonable to expect shared living arrangements.

When should you get a prenuptial agreement if you are in a de facto relationship?

 

Agreeable recommends getting your own prenup agreement within the first three years of the relationship. The longer you leave it, the greater the risk, the more complicated the prenup conversation – and the more expensive it could eventually be.

What is the process for prenuptial agreements?

 

The drafting process begins with outlining a couple’s finances and assets. To prepare, you might like to read out guide (click the orange button above) or MoneyHub’s guide to prenups.

You and your partner must seek legal counsel with separate lawyers who understand contract law. This is called the “certification process” and Agreeable specialises in helping with this.

During the certification, your lawyer will clarify your financial rights, legal rights, and personal consequences of the prenuptial contract. The lawyer will also need to determine whether the agreement is legally sound, considered fair, and that the two parties did not enter into it under duress or undue influence.

You might be entitled to more under the Act, and your lawyer will let you know once they fully understand your situation.

Ready to get a prenup?

 

Agreeable has helped hundreds of Kiwis with getting their prenuptial agreements through a simple and trustworthy online process. You can purchase a prenup with Agreeable here for $450. After answering some questions, you’ll have your automatically-generated prenuptial agreement today. Then, we can also find you a lawyer to certify your written prenup agreement.

Certifying the prenup agreement makes it valid and legally binding. Therefore, don’t skip this step. The prenup cost may set you back a bit upfront, but not getting a prenup could cost you much more down the track.

It takes time or large networks to find a lawyer, which can be a barrier for busy people. That’s why Agreeable has a panel of lawyers that are relationship property experts. In addition, because we provide this service online, our rates are more affordable.

Ready for certification?

 

If you have the agreement above, and are ready to certify, click here or get in touch with one of Agreeable team. You can email us at info@agreeable.co.nz or fill in our contact form.


 

Check out our other articles:

The Property (Relationships) Act: A Handy Guide for Kiwis in 2023

Five Helpful Tips to Save Money on Certification

What is a De Facto Relationship in NZ?

Cost of a Separation Agreement

The cost of getting a Separation Agreement (or Contracting Out Agreement for that matter) is not very expensive relative to the benefit that it provides. Certainly, it is less expensive than going to the Family Court for an order to divide up your relationship property.

It is important to know that the total cost of a separation agreement is variable. The cost will depend on the complexity of your assets (e.g if any trusts, companies, or multiple investment properties are involved) as well as how agreed and aligned the two of you are by the time you are with you certifying lawyers. 

Agreeable is proud to be New Zealand’s fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective solution for drafting and certifying an agreement. We charge just $450 for drafting your agreement via our online questionnaire (you can have your agreement in about 20 minutes), while drafting at a law firm is usually over $1,000. We then offer fixed quotes for certification (the required step of two lawyers to provide advice & sign the agreement with you) which depends on your situation’s complexity, but is often over $1,000 cheaper than the traditional approach of finding your own law firms in-person. The other cost is time, and while our research has found that the traditional approach usually takes 2-3 months, our certifications are typically done in just 2-3 weeks.

Cost comparison

 

How does Agreeable reduce the cost of a separation agreement?

Our online platform is able to draft your agreement automatically, using the responses that you give to the questionnaire. This means that you can get your initial draft agreement for $450 in just 20-30 minutes (if you bring the information you need with you, download our guide for more!) compared to over $1,000 over days or weeks. 

Then, Agreeable’s certification service is fully online. While many law firms do the basic preparation tasks in a slow, costly way – we have a specialist team and an automated process that gives you the same outcome, but much faster and at a lower cost. Furthermore, we use a nationwide lawyer panel that are familiar with each other while remaining independent. Our panel has worked on many files together, all similar to yours. This means you can be assured of a smooth process (as long as the agreement has been agreed between you and your ex-partner!), and that you are getting a legally binding and trustworthy service while saving weeks of time and thousands of dollars. 

Download our free guide to Separation Agreements

 

Can I write my own separation agreement?

It is not recommended and in our opinion, it’s not a risking worth taking. Writing your own separation agreement can lead to difficulties in receiving proper, independent legal advice if the agreement is not comprehensive and recognised by your lawyer. We recommend purchasing our separation agreement template which is supported and understood by trusted family lawyers in New Zealand.

 

What if we also want a divorce?

This is done through an application which depends on whether you both agree to the divorce, or whether only one of you wants to get the divorce.

However, you will then also need a separation agreement detailing how you want to split your relationship property assets. Can’t agree on what is shared relationship property? See our article on what assets are usually deemed to be relationship property.

Above all, note that couples have a time of 12 months from when their marriage is dissolved by a court order to divide up their relationship property.

 

So what can I expect to pay with Agreeable?

For most straightforward Agreeable agreements, the total cost of drafting ($450) and certification (variable) is likely to be between $1,950 and $2,450 + GST. We almost always offer this at a fixed fee so there are no hidden legal fees or “disbursements” at the end. 

Note that any other legal services such as conveyancing or advice on wills & estates are not included in our quotes, but the lawyers on our panel are always happy to help with these too. All you have to do is ask, and many of them can provide a fixed quote for certain services. Get in touch with the Agreeable team if you have any questions.

It’s helpful to note, also, that if for any reason you choose to stop the certification (one partner changes their mind last minute, or our lawyers advise the party not to sign as the terms are manifestly unfair), then Agreeable will refund the parties for the legal fees that were quoted-for but not used in the process. 

 

Are there any ongoing costs after separation?

You may need to get conveyancing or trust lawyers involved at this stage to deal with the execution of the terms of the separation agreement. For instance, you may need to change the name of the title on the property to one spouse, or you may need to get Deeds of Settlement drafted up if you have independent trustees which deal with your relationship property. As mentioned above, Agreeable will not include these in quotes for certification, but our lawyer panel can typically help you with these extra legal services if required.

If you have children, you may have already detailed in your agreement how you will each contribute to child-care costs. In particular, child support becomes a topic of ongoing costs. Aside from child support, if your separation agreement deals with on-going maintenance where one party continues to support the other, these may also be the on-going costs involved. This could be in addition to any child support payable. It is also open to a spouse to apply to the Family Court for maintenance on top of child support so it is best to discuss this issue when you are getting the agreement.

 

What to do with your finances after you have separated

Sorted.org.nz have a guide on separation. This details a good step-by-step guide as to what you need to do in order to get your finances in order including:

  1. Set up new bank account
  2. Check your Credit Record and any debts are paid.
  3. Update any rental agreements
  4. Work out your net worth
  5. Create a new budget after adjusting to a change in income

In addition, it is important that if you have any joint debts that you might want to ensure your name is not on these after you have paid off your share (or whatever the case may be).

Similarly, before signing onto a new lease, take your name off a shared lease to avoid being jointly liable for your partner’s debts or if anything goes wrong on this rental property.

 

Does Agreeable accept Legal Aid applicants?

Unfortunately, Agreeable does not currently provide legal aid services for separation agreements or certifications for couples which fall within the legal aid system. However, it may be in your best interest to head to a local Community Law Centre. They are likely to have a directory of services or lawyers who are skilled in this area to help. They detail whether they can provide services to you here and if you are eligible, they will direct you to the right Legal Aid lawyer.

Another useful resource is the Citizens Advice Bureau which answers some questions relating to separations and divorces.  This article may be a definitive guide on what costs you should expect when separating.