Borrin grant will help make better law for separated couples

Publication Date 
21 February 2018

The Law Commission is delighted that the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation has made a grant to research New Zealanders’ attitudes about and experiences of dividing relationship property.

The grant of $577,225 over two years to the University of Otago will enable it to survey people about what they see as fair when couples divide property after a relationship ends. The University of Otago will also research how New Zealanders divide their property and resolve disputes when they separate.

The Law Commission is reviewing the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

The lead Commissioner on the project, Helen McQueen, says the research funded by the Borrin Foundation will be invaluable.

“New Zealand society has changed enormously over the last forty years. This research will give us important information about what New Zealanders think is fair when couples divide property after separating.”

“Most New Zealanders resolve their relationship property disputes out of court, so this research will also provide crucial information about the rules that would best help people settle their property affairs at what is often an emotional and difficult time.”

The President of the Law Commission, Sir Douglas White, says “Effective law reform of social legislation such as the Property (Relationships) Act happens best when we have good information about the context in which the law operates.”

“The Law Commission commends the Borrin Foundation for helping to fill the gaps in our knowledge about how New Zealanders deal with their relationship property on separation.”

David Goddard QC, Chair of the Foundation’s Grants and Scholarships Committee, says “Family law, including the division of relationship property after separation, touches many aspects of New Zealanders’ lives, often when they are at their most vulnerable. It raises acute issues of access to law, timeliness and affordability, and the fairness of the outcomes it delivers.”

“We need a better understanding of the practical operation of this area of law. We also need to think creatively about how we can ensure that the protection of the law extends to all New Zealanders in this context.”

“The Borrin Foundation is committed to supporting research into how our family laws and institutions can become more accessible, more responsive, and more effective.”