The government is doing new things for housing – so are we!

The government is doing new things for housing – so are we!

Yesterday morning the Government announced a nearly $4 billion package that includes increased support for first-home buyers and aims to make buying your first home that little bit easier. Coincidentally, Agreeable is trying to do the same thing! In the coming months, we will be launching a Deed of Debt and a Deed of Gift that will help you make your home-buying experience simpler.

We talk to a lot of first home buyers who want to document how their new home will be split between them and their partner. We also hear from nervous parents who say “I’m lending my child money for a house deposit. How do I protect myself and make sure things don’t go topsy turvy if my child and their partner split up?”.

So far, the answer to this has included 1) ensure the lucky new home buyers get a relationship property agreement, and 2) think about documenting the loan! Until now, we’ve mainly helped with the first bit, but with our new Deeds of Debt and/or Gift, we’ll be helping you document a loan or a gift as well (and we can ensure that the agreement links up with the Deed – no loopholes!).

The Government is hoping that its new package will result in more houses being affordable. The key changes include increasing the bright line test to 10 years, staggered removal of interest deductions and lifting the First Home Grant caps.

But what if you’re still looking to get your deposit (or part of it) from somewhere else? We know that coming up with a house deposit can still be tricky. That’s why we commonly see people getting gifts or loans from family to help them make that big purchase. In the coming months, we will be launching our Deeds of Debt and Gift, to help make the loan/gift process more straightforward.

Getting a loan from the bank of mum and dad? Document it using our Deed of Debt! Receiving a gift from a kind friend who wants you to “settle down”? Document it with a Deed of Gift! Soon you will be able to access Agreeable’s user friendly document automation tools to create your own Deed, to suit your own circumstances. As always, our friendly team will be on hand to help, and our expert lawyers will be on standby in case you need legal advice. Watch this space!

Please note: Agreeable does not provide legal advice, but we provide online access to lawyers who do. If you require legal advice, please get in touch with us.

Separation Agreements and the family home

Separation Agreements and the family home

It goes without saying that separating from your partner is often a difficult experience. There is a lot to figure out, particularly when you have been together for a long time. Central to what needs to be figured out is what you are going to do with the family home – in most cases, a couple’s largest asset.

We have found that the most common way to deal with the family home is for one person to buy the other’s persons share of the home – in other words, for one of you to “buy the other out”. Under NZ’s relationship property laws (found in the Property (Relationships) Act), the family home is usually split 50/50. However, often one person has put more money into the deposit (and didn’t think to get a prenup) or one person has contributed more to the mortgage.

In those situations, the couple might then verbally agree how much one will pay the other for the house. To them, the verbal agreement is simple, easy and they know where they stand. Unfortunately, for them either the bank (or, perhaps, the bank of mum and dad) want the agreement in writing. This is where a separation agreement comes in.

Suddenly, what seemed to be an amicable and simple split can become a rabbit hole of confusion.

Where do we get one? How much will it cost? What is involved? Do I have to see a lawyer? What if they want us to change our agreement?

 

This is where Agreeable comes in.

Agreeable takes the niggle out of getting a separation agreement. We offer a template for parties to make their own written agreement at a fraction of the cost of getting a bespoke agreement from a lawyer. Two independent lawyers can also then be provided to certify the agreement (which makes it legally binding) at a fixed price. Best of all, the entire process can be completed online.

Our goal is to give the written separation agreement a simple and easy feel – just like when the parties verbally agreed. We work with parties to help them understand what is required, how much it will cost and what is involved.

If you have recently separated from your partner (or are about to buy a house with your partner), send us an email and we will help you figure out what your situation requires. Separating is hard enough, it doesn’t need to become a scary legal battle too. We’re here to help make everything a little bit more… agreeable.

Please note: Agreeable does not provide legal advice, but we provide online access to lawyers who do. If you require legal advice, please get in touch with us.

CODR is now Agreeable!

CODR is now Agreeable!

Dear CODR customers,

We are excited to announce that CODR has transitioned to Agreeable. CODR grew significantly over the past year and the decision to rebrand has brought with it an opportunity to focus our offering. This means we will no longer be providing online dispute resolution services; however, we will continue to offer our expert and industry-leading relationship property services.

Agreeable’s offering will include:

  1. Updated processes for relationship property and separation agreements;
  2. A fresher and slicker website;
  3. Better support for those who purchase an agreement through us;
  4. More options for online signing;
  5. A bigger network of expert certifying lawyers; and
  6. the same great service!

Our new brand brings with it a professional, practical, and personal approach to relationship property. Our aim has been to develop a service that takes the ‘niggle’ out of getting a prenup or separation agreement. We believe we have done that, and we hope you agree.

We are super excited about our future as Agreeable and are continuing to look at ways we can turn the traditional legal model on its head.

If you need help with setting up a prenup or a separation agreement, don’t hesitate to get in touch – info@agreeable.co.nz OR 0800 9 AGREE.

Best wishes,
The Agreeable team

Separation Agreement: Things to Include to Protect Your Finances

Separation Agreement: Things to Include to Protect Your Finances

Introduction: the Separation Agreement

If you are separating out of a marriage or de-facto relationship, or getting a divorce, you should consider getting a separation agreement.  Other than Court, it is the only valid way of dividing relationship property once a relationship ends.   Some people do this process informally, however, this can result in arguments and Court down the line.

But going to court can be very costly. While the relationship is still on good terms, you might want to negotiate a separation agreement.

You might like to refresh your knowledge of what Relationship Property means before you continue reading this article. Essentially, your separation agreement allows you to dictate how your assets will be divided.  If you get a valid separation agreement, this will override the provisions of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976. But in order for it to be legally binding on both parties, the Separation Agreement must be:

  • In writing;
  • Signed by both parties;
  • Following independent legal advice; and
  • A lawyer has to sign and witnesses your signing. This lawyer also certifies that they explained the effect and implications of the agreement to you.
  • Similarly, your partner will also need an independent lawyer doing the same certification.

What you can expect in our Separation Agreement ‘template’:

Our Agreeable separation agreement includes aspects such as:

  • The relevant dates of the relationship (when you were married or started living together, when you separated);
  • What will happen with the family home and any mortgage on it;
  • What will happen with the chattels, furniture;
  • Any bank accounts and what is to happen with those;
  • Motor vehicles and who gets what;
  • Kiwisaver and superannuation;
  • Debts – who is liable for those;
  • Any adjustments to be made or adjustment payments to make;
  • Administrative clauses, such as the requirement to make complete disclosure and to execute any necessary documents;
  • That each party has taken independent legal advice on the implications and effects of the Agreement;
  • Costs – normally each party pays their own costs and shares the cost of the agreement and certification; and
  • Witnessing by Audio-Visual communication (agreeing that this is effective).

Things to include in your Separation Agreement

If you are married or in a civil union with your partner and you later decide to apply for a divorce, you can also use the separation agreement as evidence that you have been apart for 2 years. It is necessary to show that you’ve lived apart for two years before you can apply for a divorce.

Before you go ahead and purchase Agreeable’s Separation Agreement, here are some key things most couples think about when they get a separation agreement.

 

The Family Home

One of the main assets couples own is the home. You could also have jointly-owned chattels. Think about your family car, household furniture and other ‘big ticket’ items.

Regardless of who paid for the Family Home, it will usually be relationship property.

When you separate, you can sell the main Family Home. The sale will be divided in half and shared between you and your partner. Otherwise, one party may keep the house and buy the other  partner out. This might be desirable if you have children to consider.

In the Family Court, the judge guides their decision by general principles. You might like to think about these principles when dividing your own relationship property:

  • That since each partner has contributed equally to the relationship, the assets will be shared equally too i.e. split in half
  • The Court won’t look at who is ‘at fault’ for breaking up the relationship
  • Unpaid domestic work has equal value to economic work

However, your separation agreement does not have to divide your assets in this way. If you are purchasing a separation agreement and then seeking your partner’s approval, you can show them that you have thought about fair terms.

 

What about Separate Property?

But you and your partner may also have other assets which are not relationship property.

An example is other investment home(s) which are not the Family Home. This could be ‘separate property’ which does not come under the Relationship Property Act if it can be determined to not be relationship property. Separate property remains the property of the partner who owns it.

Situations can get complicated. For example, sometimes both partners own a home capable of becoming the family home. Generally, when relationship property is to be divided, the home of only one partner will be considered the main Family Home.

Separate property can include property one partner got while they were not living together as a couple. Or it can be property that a partner acquires from another such as an inheritance (unless this property gets mixed with relationship property). If you need legal advice on your individual circumstances, Agreeable can help you find Family Law experts.

Child-Care Arrangements

If you have children from your relationship to consider, our Separation Agreement, does allow you to detail what your day to day care and contact of your children will be, access and other major decisions regarding the upbringing of your child or children if they are still minors.

The court will only be concerned only with what is in the best interests of the children when they consider child-care arrangements.

 

Your own or your partner’s debt

You or your partner can be liable for any personal debts (even if they are solely in your partner’s name) if they are considered relationship debts. Relationship debt includes any joint debts or debt that is solely in your partner’s name if:

  • the debt was related to the relationship property. For example you used it to get a loan on a car you both used, or for a business you both benefited from;
  • the debt was for the benefit of both partners. For example rent, debt to buy furniture;
  • the debt is the result of the cost of bringing up any children you have together.

You can deal with how to divide up any joint debts or whether one party takes these debts over and provides an indemnity for that party not taking over the debt.

Think about your current credit card debts, any remaining hire purchases, student loans etc.  Your lawyer will ask for more information if there is not enough details in your separation agreement. We recommend you spend some time listing these out with your partner.

 

What about Kiwisaver?

If you have contributed to Kiwisaver after your relationship started, or another employment scheme such as the Police Superannuation or other government scheme, then you need to share this amount with your partner when you separate.

Generally, this will be split in half. Your certifying lawyer will need to see proof of the value of your Kiwisaver – unless it is only a small amount.

You can withdraw your Kiwisaver on the grounds of significant financial hardship and serious illness. Your Kiwisaver scheme manager will need to be reasonably satisfied that you or your partner is suffering or is likely to suffer significant financial hardship. Then you can make a significant financial hardship withdrawal. Significant financial hardship includes significant financial difficulties which can come up after separation.

 

Finally, is your agreement fair?

If you do have to go to court, it is likely that the judge will determine whether:

  • the agreement is fair;
  • you both worked on the agreement without pressure and entered into it freely;
  • it covers all your assets after full disclosure.

The extent to which a judge will stay with your agreement reflects the level of his acceptance of the above three points.

If one of you is in breach of the deed of separation and the other goes to court to enforce it, the judge can alter the terms of the agreement.

A separation agreement is useful in so many ways. It allows for certainty, it ensures your separate property stays your separate property, and probably most importantly, it helps to give parties closure.  

Buy your Separation Agreement now

People are increasingly turning online to meet their everyday needs. Technology can make this a more satisfying, efficient and easier process. This is exactly the aim of Agreeable, an online dispute resolution platform and service.

Agreeable offers the following ‘DIY’ services and steps so that you can move on:

  1. Purchase our agreement. It will automatically generate your tailor-made agreement.
  2. Contact us to certify your document with our expert Family Lawyers.
  3. Go ahead and put the terms of your agreement into action if needed.

Things such as Family Trusts and businesses can make your situation more complicated.  Please talk to one of us at the Agreeable team about your situation.

If you have a dispute over relationship property, Agreeable can also help you resolve this if both parties are willing to negotiate or arbitrate. Otherwise you can consider what your options are with our Family Law experts. Please contact us on what your next steps may be.

Disclaimer: Any information we provide is general information. Please do not rely on the contents of this article as legal advice. Agreeable is not a law firm or a substitute for a law firm. 

DIY Relationship Property Disputes

“See you in court” might be very satisfying to say after a bitter break-up, however, this strategy may not serve you that well in the long term.

We have written on the key aspects of relationship property disputes before and your options when you have a relationship property dispute. However, we are now offering a service where a couple can quickly and easily settle relationship property issues themselves after a relationship breakdown.

The mechanism is a separation agreement and it is what we recommend for all parties that are still on reasonably good terms with each other.  The other three forms of resolution – mediation, arbitration or the courts all take significantly more time and cost a lot more money.

After purchasing the separation agreement, a previously loaded set of questions obtains all the relevant information from you and inputs it into your agreement – creating it “automatically” and without the need for a lawyer to spend their time drafting it.

However, for a separation agreement to be enforceable, both parties must receive independent legal advice and have the agreement certified by their advising lawyers.  We also offer this certification process via Agreeable.

For an agreement, advice and certification from two lawyers, the cost is normally between $1500 – $1800 + GST (depending on the complexity of your particular agreement).

If it’s possible for you, we think a self-directed separation agreement should be your preferred option given its time, cost and stress savings.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call one of the team at Agreeable on 0800 263 700.

What is the Agreeable Process?

The Agreeable Process combines the best aspects of mediation and arbitration to form an enhanced dispute resolution procedure. The result is a process that preserves relationships as best as possible while providing fair, efficient and conclusive resolutions to disputes.

 

Generally, it is advantageous from both a relationship and cost point of view to resolve a dispute by mediation. However, parties can often be entrenched on particular issues and, for one reason or another, can be unwilling to move or meaningfully negotiate. This is the environment in which arbitration is superior to mediation. Arbitration can provide the decision making rigour of a court room while providing privacy and the benefits of time and cost efficiency. However, most disputes are multi-faceted and cannot easily be categorised as either being for mediation or arbitration. This is where the Agreeable process excels.

 

How does it happen?

The process starts by Agreeable assessing your dispute and suggesting an expert that is best suited to resolve it. In making this decision Agreeable takes into account the cost, expertise and availability of the expert to resolve your dispute in a timely manner. The expert is suggested to the parties, and failing agreement Agreeable can appoint one.

The issues in dispute are then identified and refined by the parties and the expert through digital communications, and digital forms. After refinement of the issues the expert along with the parties will decide on the time frames for their matter. A digital meeting will then be convened in which the parties will mediate the dispute. Any matters that cannot be resolved via mediation will be determined by the expert at a later date. In coming to their determination the expert may require information or evidence from the parties, and a timetable will be set for such material to be submitted. If a determination cannot be made “on the papers”, a hearing can occur and cross-examination can take place (at the expert’s direction). Once the last written submission is filed (if the case is decided “on the papers”), or the hearing concludes, the expert will deliver his determination in 30 days.

Even a seemingly straight-forward dispute can often have many dimensions that reveal themselves once the resolution procedure begins. If you are interested in finding out more, please make an enquiry, or call 0800 9 AGREE.