Edmonds Judd

Separation

Goodwill and good process will help prevent turmoil

The time following a separation can be highly emotional – for you and your spouse or partner, and for your children.

 

In this fraught environment, disputes can easily arise about the day-to-day care arrangements for your children or other vital issues such as where they will live, schooling, medical care, religious/cultural choices and so on. These are formally called guardianship matters.

 

In cases where the children are safe in their respective parent’s care, there are numerous ways in which care arrangements can be resolved and guardianship decisions made, without the need to involve the Family Court. A co-parenting relationship extends well beyond the uncertain period following a separation.

 

The best case scenario? Parents agree to ongoing care arrangements and guardianship matters between themselves and cooperatively focus on what is in the best interests of their children.

 

These best case scenarios, however, are not always possible, especially when disputes arise at a sensitive or acrimonious time for separating parents.

 

Can’t reach agreement?

What happens if parents cannot agree? Either parent can initiate the Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) process:

  • This is a mediation service, without lawyers, that deals specifically with care and guardianship disputes
  • A mediator is assigned to work with both parents, individually and/or collectively, to achieve an agreement, and
  • If agreement is reached, this can be documented in a mediated agreement.

 

If parents cannot reach agreement from the FDR process, then either parent can pursue the matter through the Family Court. Importantly, FDR is a prerequisite to attend the Family Court, unless there are urgent concerns for a child.

 

Some parents rely on third party assistance:

  • In many instances, parents can reach agreement after receiving (and following) advice and guidance
  • Using a third party can give conflicting parents an objective perspective, particularly at such an emotional time, and
  • Such support can be obtained through lawyers, counsellors and/or personal support networks such as family and/or friends.

 

Formalising the arrangements

Once you’ve reached agreement, some parents like (or it may be necessary) to have their children’s care arrangements formalised. This can be done with a parenting agreement; this document outlines the specific care arrangements and/or relevant guardianship provisions for children that both parents sign and (should) adhere to.

 

Alternatively, parents can consent to the terms of their agreement with a parenting order; this is a court-sealed document that collates the agreed terms and can be enforced if there are unconsented breaches.

 

Whatever the care provisions, it is in a child’s best interests for arrangements to be tailored to their age, stage and needs. Such arrangements should evolve with each child’s needs and stages and be regularly reviewed. Lawyers and counsellors who specialise in family and child disputes are often well equipped to provide advice on age appropriate arrangements and options.

 

Last resort is the Family Court

A Family Court hearing can be an expensive process – not only financially, but it can also take a significant toll emotionally and on the time of both parents, their children and their support networks. It also involves placing the decision regarding your children in the hands of a third party, the judge.

 

Obviously, having the parents cooperate and reach agreement is always going to be the best outcome for a family. However, there will be some situations where using the Family Court is necessary and preferred, such as when parents cannot reach agreement, where there are safety concerns for a child in either (or both) parents’ care or if urgent intervention is required (for example, preventing a child from being taken out of New Zealand).

 

If you are separating and need guidance about arrangements for your children, it’s important to get advice from a specialist family lawyer. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if this happens to you.

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Fineprint is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650


Shared parenting

Relocating the children without consent

Deciding to move to a new location can be exciting and bring a sense of renewal, particularly after a long cold winter and enduring these Covid years.

 

However, if you are separated with children, what happens to ongoing parenting arrangements in these situations? Can you move with your children without agreement from the other parent?

 

If you do this, it is referred to as a ‘unilateral relocation’, and it can result in applications filed and court orders sought. Both parents are considered a guardian of the children, regardless of how much contact one of the parents may have. There are certain decisions about a child that are ‘guardianship decisions.’ You must discuss these with the other parent. Topics to talk about include where a child lives, where they go to school, any medical decisions and so on.

 

The process

Whatever the reasons for you considering a move, the best option is to discuss this openly and honestly with the other parent. Understandably, the idea of your children moving away can be difficult for the other parent.

 

It may be that you can reach an agreement between the two of you. If it becomes difficult, you can get help initially with mediation forums outside of the Family Court.

 

If you cannot agree, you can file an ‘application to resolve a dispute between guardians’ in your local Family Court and the court will decide for you. The court will look at specific factors, including:

  • What is in the best interests of your children
  • Your children’s relationship with you both
  • What contact arrangements would look like for the other parent, as the court recognises the importance of your children having a relationship with both of you
  • The ages of your children, and
  • Your children’s views on the move.

 

Don’t want them to move?

If your children have not yet moved, and you don’t want them to, you can file an application in the Family Court to stop the children from being moved within New Zealand. You can also ask the court for an ‘order preventing removal’ to stop the children from leaving New Zealand. These applications can be filed on a ‘without notice’ basis, where you ask the court to consider the application without first hearing from the other party.

In this application, you ask the court to make an order that states the children cannot be removed from a specified location (within New Zealand or from New Zealand). With this order in place, it limits your children being removed until further investigations could occur or agreement is reached.

 

What if they are moved anyway?

If the children are relocated without your consent, you can apply to the Family Court for the children to be returned to where they had been living. You would file again for a guardianship order that your children reside in a particular place, and then file for a parenting order. The court will generally favour the status quo location of your children, which is where they were

living for the most recent period before they moved. In determining these applications, the court will always consider what is in the welfare and best interests of the children. This is a paramount consideration.

 

Children’s best interests come first

It is important that your children are happy and settled, and that their interests come first. Ideally both parents will work together to ensure arrangements for their children’s welfare are agreed harmoniously. If, however, agreements can’t be reached, there are options for court intervention. It is wise to try and avoid that as it can be very expensive and take a long time. Most of all, it can affect your children’s relationship with both parents – and no one wants that.

 

If you are concerned about where your children are living, or that they could be moved without your consent, please be in touch with us straight away so we can avoid too much heartache for everyone.

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Fineprint is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650


Make a new will and EPAs when you separate

Many people who have endured a relationship break up know it can be exhausting – mentally, emotionally, physically and, ultimately, financially. You could be forgiven, then, for thinking the priority is to get the agreements signed or Court Orders made. However, what is often overlooked as one of the first steps, and yet so imperative to protect your assets and your new spouse, partner or children in the future, is updating your will and enduring powers of attorney (EPA) to reflect your new relationship status.

 

Why update your will?

There are some very good reasons why you should update your will if you separate, including:

  • Your ex-spouse/partner may still benefit under your will as it continues to be effective after you separate unless:
  • You remarry or form a civil union
  • You make a new will, or
  • The court orders otherwise.
  • If your marriage or civil union hasn’t been formally dissolved, everything remains the same (which is why you need to change your will after separation). If your marriage or civil union has been dissolved, however, your ex-spouse/partner can neither be an executor nor a beneficiary.

 

Those people whom you would like to benefit (such as your new spouse or partner, children or grandchildren) may have to share your estate with your ex-spouse/partner unless they can persuade them to waive their entitlement under your will by entering a deed of family arrangement. If your ex-spouse/partner refuses to waive their entitlement then your family would need to resort to a claim in the Family Court for additional provision from your estate, such as:

  • A claim by your new spouse/partner, children or grandchildren under the Family Protection Act 1955, or
  • A claim by your new spouse/partner under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

 

None of the above options will be easy, and all of them could be lengthy, litigious and expensive. If you wish to ensure those people you would like to benefit when you die do in fact benefit, your first task should be to instruct your lawyer to make a new will that reflects your newly separated situation.

 

Appointing a testamentary guardian?

If you separate, you can ensure someone you trust will look after your children’s best interests and welfare after you die by appointing a ‘testamentary guardian’ in your will. Your testamentary guardian will have the power to make guardianship decisions about your children.

 

This is particularly important if any other legal guardians (such as your children’s other parent or existing court-appointed guardians) are not so suitable.

 

Appointing a testamentary guardian gives that guardian the right to apply for day-to-day care, it does not necessarily mean they will have the day-to-day care of your children after you die. However, if the testamentary guardian was the primary caregiver prior to your death, and it is not in the children’s best interests and welfare to be placed in the care of any other legal guardians, then the court may well grant the testamentary guardian day-to-day care.

 

A testamentary guardian should be someone you consider a good role model for your children. That person should be in the best position, financially and emotionally, to help care for them, be in good health and be able to ensure continuity of care for your children so they are not uplifted from their education, social group or community. Make sure you talk with your proposed guardian to ensure they can tick all these boxes before making this appointment in your will.

 

Why update your EPA?

If you appointed your ex-spouse/partner as your attorney in respect of EPAs for personal care and welfare and/or property, this is also not automatically revoked when you separate. It’s a similar situation as overlooking making a new will when you separate – retaining an out-of-date EPA could create a very awkward family reunion if your ex spouse/partner remains responsible for making decisions about your personal matters (which doesn’t include decisions about your children) if you lose mental capacity.

 

If you do not revoke your EPA after you separate, and subsequently lose mental capacity, unless the appointment of your ex spouse/partner ceases (because your ex dies, becomes mentally incapable, bankrupt, or files a notice in court under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988), the only option to remove an attorney is for your family to apply to the Family Court.

 

The better option? Revoke your EPAs and make new ones with your lawyer at the same time you update your will.

 

Do it sooner rather than later

Understandably, the idea of more legalities after a separation can be daunting and easily pushed to the back of your mind. Ignoring these issues may be easy to justify after the rigours of a separation. Ultimately, however, by not being thorough post-separation, which includes re-arranging your estate planning, you are leaving a potentially complex and expensive legal headache behind for your loved ones and much uncertainty for your children.

 

Get onto this sooner rather than later – the risk isn’t worth it.

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Fineprint is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650


For better, for worse?

The law governing the division of property when a relationship ends is, after more than 40 years, set to change following the Law Commission’s comprehensive review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (the PRA).

The Law Commission has identified changes that it believes should be made to ensure the regime better reflects the reasonable expectations of New Zealanders. We set out some of the proposals that may be relevant to you or your family.

divorce

The family home

Under the current law, in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship of more than three years, the family home is automatically considered to be relationship property and subject to equal sharing. Under the changes proposed, the family home will not necessarily be shared 50/50, particularly if one partner owned it before the start of the relationship. In that situation, it is proposed that only the increase in value would be subject to equal sharing.

  Continue reading


‘Nuptial Settlements’

Have I made one?

The law around trusts is ever-changing particularly with relationship property and matrimonial issues. The courts continue to chip away at the trust as an appropriate vehicle to protect assets against a relationship breakup.

The Clayton case

One area of this changing environment that will be of interest to the rural community is a consequence of some judicial reasoning in the Clayton v Clayton[1] case. There will be particular interest in the comments made in relation to ‘nuptial settlements’ and s182 of the Family Proceedings Act 1980.

Continue reading


If you are in a de facto relationship, there could be significant financial implications for you if you separate, or if your partner (or you) dies

The principal piece of legislation which deals with the division of property belonging to couples or married couples is the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (the PRA). Substantial reforms in 2001 extended the scope  of the PRA to cover de facto relationships. But what exactly constitutes a de facto relationship in the eyes  of the law?

Continue reading


The latest Trust eSpeaking – hot off the press

Trust eSpeaking

In this issue:

  • Division of Trust Assets on Separation: Family Proceedings Act can apply
  • What Type of Trust do you Have? Important tax implications
  • Advisory Trustees: all care and not the responsibility

The next issue of Trust eSpeaking will be published in September.