Life's Challenges

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

In New Zealand, the Relationship Act covers how the family home and other assets will be divided when people get divorced or end a serious relationship. If your relationship qualifies (see the Ministry of Justice website for details), your family home will likely be treated as “relationship property”.

If you and your partner can’t decide on how to divide your assets, the Family Court will make a ruling. The Family Court will typically rule that all “relationship property” be split equally. There can be exceptions to this, where an equal split would be unjust or where one of the partners would be seriously disadvantaged.

You should consult a lawyer for more advice about your specific circumstances.

No it doesn't. A divorce is simply the legal process used to dissolve a marriage. The divorce itself does not address any family or custody issues, or consider how family assets (including property) should be split.
Many partners work out property and custody agreements between themselves, without legal conveyancing. This approach can save time and legal costs, and avoid lengthy court disputes which may be harmful for children. Where agreements cannot be satisfactorily made, lawyers may be engaged.
Legal cases are normally heard by the Family Court.

If you're moving cities due to a job or career change, it makes sense to live as close to your place of future employment as possible. To choose the ideal location:

  • Talk with a local employment agency or recruitment company and get some advice on where you’re most likely to find employers suited to your skills.
  • If you already know where you’re going to be working, talk to your new employer to find out information about public transport options or convenient road links from the suburbs.
  • Use an online guide, such as the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand website to research statistics, property data and trends in your new area.
  • Decide ahead on your budget for renting or purchasing a place to live. Using a salary calculator to work out how much you'll have available to spend each week after tax is deducted can be useful. Once your budget is confirmed, visit for comprehensive renting and sale listings. You can enter your requirements and budget into our search fields, and we'll quickly show you properties for sale or rent that meet your needs.
  • Your local First National real estate agent has a wealth of local knowledge, and can help you with relocation advice and services. Contact Us now.

Your choice of where to live is important. Make sure that you consider local crime rates, and your closeness to public transport, shopping centres, schools and other relevant amenities. Websites like Quotable Value provide free local statistical information, including breakdowns of the household age groups living in your area.
Where you live can also impact others, so consider the living locations of your friends, families, and colleagues too.

It's important that you calculate the overall affordability of the property for your budget. Affordability is the rent or mortgage payments, along with food, petrol (commuting costs), power, water, rates, and local restaurant prices. As the prices of these items and services vary from place it place, it's helpful to do some research.

New Zealand is a relatively small country, with just over 4 million residents, but it has some of the world's most liveable cities. Each city is modern, and has its own uniqueness. There's a city in New Zealand just right for you.

  • Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, and is home to over 1 million people. As the main commercial centre for New Zealand, it also offers the most diverse employment prospects. Auckland has a rich performance and arts culture, and is home to people from a wide range of ethnic groups. The high popularity of Auckland living is reflected in the Auckland real estate market. Prices of houses are generally much higher in Auckland than in other New Zealand cities, especially in the more desirable inner city suburbs.
  • Hamilton is New Zealand’s largest inland city, and is located within 1 ½ hrs drive from Auckland. It has a population of 150,000 people, making it the fourth largest city in New Zealand. Hamilton is the main regional hub for the Waikato farming region, and much of the economy is devoted to rural services. The area is known for outstanding farming research, and the University of Waikato and the Waikato Institute of Technology are both based here. The manufacturing and retail sectors are popular here too, and are growing. Hamilton does not have all of Auckland's amenities, but it provides a comfortable and less rushed lifestyle which many people are drawn to.
  • Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, and is home to the New Zealand Government (housed primarily in the Beehive building). Most New Zealand senior public sector jobs can be found in this city. The city itself is compact, with a large number of inner city apartments available for sale or rent. This makes inner city living more affordable than in main centres like Auckland. Wellington is known as the "windy city" due to high winds which pass overhead from the Cook Strait. Summer days can however be delightful here.
  • Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city. In recent years, the city has had two main earthquakes, causing a lot of household (and business) damage, but the city is now rebuilding. If you're a tradesperson looking for work, the job opportunities here are plentiful due to the construction boom. The Canterbury region as a whole has an unemployment rate lower that 3%.Christchurch also has strong agriculture, engineering, and tourism economies. Students are well catered for at the University of Canterbury, and at Lincoln University. House prices in Christchurch have been pushed higher lately due to the constrained supply of housing whilst houses are re-built (or brand new housing is built). This situation is expected to be temporary.
  • Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island, and is one of New Zealand's premier "student cities". Students make up almost 20% of the population, on which both the retail and tertiary education sector heavily depend. Dunedin is in close travelling proximity to popular ski fields and tourism areas like Queenstown, making it a popular tourist stop.The winter season in Dunedin can be cold, and snowfall is common. Due partially to these low temperatures, and the city's location near the bottom of the South Island, real estate prices are inexpensive when compared to most other New Zealand cities. The relatively low population growth in this area may dampen possibilities for longer term capital gains on property, but this also helps to keep rental and sale prices competitive and relatively stable.

Under the Relationship Act, if you've been living in a relationship similar to marriage for at least 3 years (e.g. living together in the same property, with joint finances), then your property will normally be treated in the same way as property from an official marriage.
The relationship period considered may be shorter than 3 years if you have a child together, or if one partner has made significant financial contributions to the relationship (such as buying a house) and would be disadvantaged by an equal split.

Dividing property or other assets following a divorce or separation can be achieved by a four step process with the Family Court. The steps are as follows:

  • Application for Settlement:An application is made to the Family Court for a Property Division Settlement. You will be required to file information about the relationship, including the length of time you have been together, and your reasons for separation or divorce. Your application should also include a proposal for dividing the property and other assets held (e.g. family home, other property, savings, superannuation, shares and investments). Your personal debt and liabilities details will be requested, to assess your individual financial situation.
  • Judicial Conference:The Judge will call a meeting to discuss how the case will proceed, and to determine what items the partners already agree on.
  • Settlement Conference:The Judge will hold a conference to see if the partners can agree together on how best to divide their property. Lawyers for both sides are able to participate in this if desired.
  • Hearing:If the partners can’t agree, the Judge will hold a hearing and make a legal ruling as to how the property will be divided.

In New Zealand, an application for property settlement must be made within 12 months of a divorce or the dissolution of a civil union. For de facto relationships, the application must be made within a 3 year period from separation.

The Relationship Act defines relationship property to include:

  • The family home.
  • Any household furniture and fittings, regardless of when they were purchased.
  • Any jointly owned property, or property purchased by a partner before the relationship began that has been in common (joint) usage.
  • Most property acquired after the relationship began (with some exceptions).
  • Financial assets such as shares, cash or other investments, that have been created (or contributed to) during the relationship.
  • Insurance policies related to any of the relationship property described above.

When you're buying real estate for investment purposes, the location is really important. It's often said that you should buy the "worst house in the best street", rather than the "best house in the worst street", because good (or up and coming) housing areas tend to hold their value better than neighbourhoods on the decline.
Buying your home in a well-connected and popular location that has the potential for further improvement is a logical approach. When buying, look for:

  • Houses that are close to shops, parks, good schools and transport hubs.
  • Houses or apartments that can be renovated or freshened up relatively cheaply. If buying in an apartment block, be aware of the standard of other apartments in the block, tenancy profiles (and likely noise), and amenities.
  • Real estate that is close to recreational facilities, sports clubs or other amenities that are likely to be popular with the general public.
  • Housing that is positioned for energy efficiency (north facing).
  • Homes that are well insulated, in the floors, walls and ceilings.
  • Real estate in suburbs which are likely to see significant development.

Real Estate New Zealand provides a helpful property inspection checklist.

At First National Real Estate, we're here to help you.Contact a First National Real Estateagent prior to moving into their area, and get chatting. They are well placed to give you general information and advice about your upcoming move. They can also add you to our database of potential property buyers or renters, and can send you updates when properties that suit your needs and preferences become available.

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