What is a de facto relationship?

by | 14 Apr 2021 | Family

Under the New Zealand Property (Relationships) Act, the general principle is that separating spouses are each entitled to half of all relationship property.

This principle of equal division doesn’t just apply to married couples, it also applies to partners in civil unions and de facto relationships.

The Act defines a de facto relationship as a relationship between 2 people of any gender above the age of 18 who are “living together as a couple”.

As you can see, this definition is so wide that a dating relationship would become a de facto relationship under the law without the parties fully realising.

The Act does provide some guidance, and the Courts will look at the following factors to determine whether the relationship is a de facto one. The Courts will look at:

1. the duration of the relationship
2. the nature and extent of common residence
3. whether or not a sexual relationship exists
4. the degree of financial dependence
5. the ownership pf property
6. the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
7. the care and support of children
8. the reputation and public aspects of the relationship

Irrespective of these factors, the assessment of a de facto relationship by a Judge is a very subjective exercise. Therefore, even if you think you are in a casual dating relationship, it is possible that the Court may determine that you are in fact in a de facto relationship. In which case the principle of equal division of relationship property may apply to you.

Speak to us at Capstone Law if you have any questions about New Zealand relationship property law, we would be happy to assist you.

Kenneth Sun

Kenneth Sun

Partner & CEO

Kenneth is the founding partner of Capstone Law.  Kenneth has a MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and he was also awarded the prestigious Dean’s Academic Achievement Award for graduating from the University of Auckland law school in the top 5% of his class. Kenneth has worked at some of the best law firms in the country before starting Capstone Law.


+64 9 555 0386