Series of 6 Research Highlights: Relationship Property Division in New Zealand

A six-part series of Research Highlights that draw on key findings from a socio-legal research project aimed at assisting separated people to divide their property following the end of a relationship in New Zealand.

About the project

This research project was undertaken to help meet the information needs of Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission and the family justice sector regarding the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (PRA). The lack of an evidence base informing relationship property division by separated couples in New Zealand, and the implications of this for law reform and future policy, practice and service delivery, had been keenly felt, especially given the Law Commission’s remit to review the PRA and advise the government on proposals for reform. The following two research questions underpinned the research, which was undertaken over two phases:

  1. Does the PRA still reflect society’s values and attitudes as to what is fair in the context of relationship separation?


  1. How do separated couples divide their property and resolve any property disputes?


An Extension and Top-up grant (2022) enabled the wealth of data collected in Phases 1 and 2 to be drawn upon, and further analysed, to produce six in-depth Research Highlights on specific PRA-related topics for public and professional dissemination:

  1. Knowledge and Understanding of Relationship Property Division
  2. Relationship Property Division: Insights From Those Who’ve ‘Been There, Done That’
  3. How the Relationship Between Former Partners Affects Their Property Division
  4. The Challenges and Impact of Relationship Property Division
  5. Prenuptial / Contracting Out Agreements
  6. Dividing Relationship Property: A Guide about Issues to Consider


Phase 1 (2017-2018): This phase involved a nationwide telephone survey ascertaining public attitudes and values about post-separation relationship property division. During January – March 2018, 1,361 telephone interviews were undertaken with a representative sample of 1,011 people aged over 18 years, with additional ‘booster’ interviews with 150 Māori, 100 Pasifika and 100 Asian respondents. The findings were reported on in 2019 and helped inform the Law Commission’s final report and recommendations to the Minister of Justice in 2019.

Phase 2 (2019-2021): This phase involved a mixed methods research design comprising:

  • An anonymous nationwide survey, from June to November 2020, with 378 separated people who had divided property with a former partner.
  • Telephone interviews with a sub-set of 110 survey respondents about their experiences and perspectives.


No previous research has been undertaken on these issues in New Zealand.

This series of six research highlights, along with the research reports and summaries from Phases 1 and 2 of this project, are available on our website.

See Report: Series of 6 Research Highlights: Relationship Property Division in New Zealand

See Report: Relationship Property Division in New Zealand: Public Attitudes and Values (Phase 1)

See Report: Relationship Property Division in New Zealand: The Experiences of Separated People (Phase 2)

Grant amount

$577,225 over 2017-2022 (Phase One: $182,076; Phase Two: $428,223)


About the Children’s Issues Centre (CIC), Faculty of Law, University of Otago

The Principal Investigators, Professor Nicola Taylor and Dr Megan Gollop (from the CIC), undertook this project in collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team comprising Ian Binnie, Professor Mark Henaghan, Dr Jeremy Robertson and Shirley Simmonds. The Project Advisers were Helen McQueen and Nichola Lambie from Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission.


Professor Nicola Taylor

Professor of Family Law and Director of the Children’s Issues Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Otago