Who gets to stay in the house?
There is no black and white answer to this question. Typically this is worked out by agreement.
A number of factors come into play including whether there are children, any difference in income between partners and practical arrangements (eg. alternative accommodation options).
If you’re unable to agree and staying in the same house is untenable, you should obtain legal advice about your options.
What financial support can I receive/do I need to provide?
Whether one partner needs to support the other financially following separation will depend upon various factors. “Spousal maintenance” may be payable whether there are children or not. If upon separation one partner is left in a position where they cannot meet their reasonable needs then the other partner will need to continue supporting them financially (so long as that person has the ability to pay). There is no defined period in our law and the lifestyle of the person who requires maintenance will be relevant to the amount that needs to be paid. Reaching agreement and/or obtaining advice on this issue early on is important.
In addition, if there are children of the relationship then one parent may be liable to pay child support. This is payable until a child turns 18 (or if 18 and still at school, until they finish school). Child support is calculated having regard to the age of the children, each parent’s income and the care arrangements for the child/children. You can access the child support liability calculator on the IRD website at http://www.ird.govt.nz/calculators/keyword/childsupport/calculator-child-support-liability-entitlement.html
Who pays the bills while we work things out?
This will depend upon who has the ability to pay, who remains in the home, what each party earns and whether child support and/or spousal maintenance is payable.
If you have a mortgage, it may be possible to negotiate a ‘mortgage holiday’ with your bank or interest-only payments for a period to make financial matters a little easier while separation issues are resolved.
Do we have to share the care of the children equally?
It is up to parents/guardians to agree on care arrangements that work best for their children. What works for children in one family may not work for another. For some children, equal shared care works really well and for others it is a disaster. Much will depend on the age of the children, their relationship with each parent and practical arrangements such as parents and children’s commitments/activities.
If shared care is an option, there are a number of ways that can work. It doesn’t have to be week about, there are several different options.
If you’re unable to agree on care arrangements you can try Family Dispute Resolution mediation and the Parenting Through Separation programme. For further information go to: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/
You may also want to seek legal advice about childcare and guardianship matters so that you are fully informed.
Do we both need a lawyer?
In order to have a binding agreement recording the division of your relationship property, yes, you will both need to have independent legal advice (different lawyers from different firms).
That doesn’t stop you negotiating an agreement between yourselves but you will each need to receive independent legal advice to ensure the agreement is binding, and sign the agreement with your lawyers.
If you are negotiating yourselves, it is a good idea to first obtain legal advice as to your rights, obligations and the process so you are fully informed throughout.
For further information contact our Wellington based family lawyers: