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.

Dividing your assets in a separation

Dividing your assets in a separation

What happens to the bach, the boat and your superannuation?

It is no secret that when married couples and de facto partners separate, each individual is typically entitled to a 50% share of all relationship property under the Property (Relationships) Act.

What you and your partner may not realise is that your superannuation falls within the definition of relationship property. Given the Law Commission has identified that superannuation, second to the house, can be one of your most significant assets it is important to know how it may be divided if you and your partner separate.1

 

So how and why is your ex entitled your superannuation fund?

It may seem counterintuitive that your ex could benefit from a superannuation fund that you, yourself, cannot touch until you reach the age of 65. The good news is that property acquired before your relationship is usually treated as separate and will not form part of the divisible superannuation amount. However, the current law says that any increase to your superannuation during your relationship will be divided equally – irrespective of who contributed the funds.

In the event that you do have to give your ex a percentage of your superannuation the process is not as simple as transferring the money from your superannuation to theirs. The most common arrangement involves handing over another asset that is equal in value, such as a lump sum of cash, the boat, or a greater share in the house.

If your pool of relationship property is not large enough to hand over a lump sum, a loan may be an appropriate alternative.

That said, where neither of the above is an option, the court can make an order directly to the manager of your scheme to release the superannuation funds.

 

The effects of COVID-19

One of the effects of Covid-19 was the plummet of superannuation fund balances, leaving many funds worth far less than their pre-COVID-19 value. In valuing personal property, the court assesses the amount owed at the date of separation. If you and your partner separated pre-COVID-19, this could have a significant impact on the amount of your super that your ex is entitled to. The expected percentage of your superannuation payable to your partner may reflect an amount of money that no longer exists.

 

How we can help

Separations are stressful enough, and going to court can add a costly and timely burden. COVID-19 is expected to lead to a spike in separations, exacerbated by lockdown, forcing family tensions to bubble to the surface.

If you’ve separated and need to take care of your assets, our separation agreements can help. On the other hand, if you’re entering or already in a relationship, a prenup (Relationship Property Agreement (RPA)) can help provide certainty for the future. Asking your partner for an RPA may not be the most romantic gesture in the world but, in all this uncertainty, there has never been a better time to secure your assets.

Ultimately, our law means that you are entitled to make your own decisions about how to divide your assets. Therefore, instead of leaving it to the Act and the courts to split up what is yours, a prenup or separation agreement is an efficient and cost-effective option.

 

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 lawyer.

1Law Commission Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (NZLC R143) at 15.43.