Court considers pre-nuptial agreements

Publication Date 
04 August 2017

A recent High Court decision on a dispute between former de facto partners considers important issues in the Law Commission's review of relationship property law.

Stuff reports that the Court rejected an appeal to uphold a pre-nuptial agreement, in which one partner from a 28-year de facto relationship agreed to receive $20,000 (and a $13,000 car) when the relationship ended.

"Justice Ellis said the pre-nuptial agreement was unfair and unreasonable, and the $20,000 payment … was a "drop in the ocean," when [the partner] retained assets worth more than $1.1m."

 Law Commissioner Helen McQueen says the decision touches on one of the issues facing the Commission as it reviews the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.  

"We want to hear people's opinions on when and how people should be able to contract out of sharing their property. There are some couples that do not want the law to assume they share property, as Newsroom highlighted last month, and pre-nuptial agreements are a way of doing this. But there are also situations where pre-nuptial contracts may have unfair and unreasonable outcomes, as Justice Ellis noted."

Helen McQueen says the Commission will begin consulting on relationship property law later this year, and people who want to have a say can register their interest at