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Equal Rights On Break Up Of A Relationship

Property Rights: Equal Rights On Break Up Of A Relationship

"Cabinet agreed this morning to provide for a fairer and more equitable arrangement to allow de facto couples - including same sex couples – to allocate property at the end of a relationship," said Associate Minister of Justice, Margaret Wilson.

Ms Wilson was commenting on the Coalition Government's decision to include de facto couples in the current Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill currently before the Parliament.

"This has been an on-going source of at best irritation and at worst, severe financial and economic disadvantage for de facto couples whose relationships have come to an end after often considerable periods of time but with no secure legal rights to ensure assets were equitably distributed on termination of the relationship."

"The Government proposes extending protections to those couples who have been living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage as determined by the courts for at least three years. There will be options for couples who so desire to opt out of coverage by the new measures as long as they agree to make their own legal arrangements appropriate for any future ending of that relationships," said Margaret Wilson.

"The National Government attempted reform in this area first as long ago as 1976. Nothing has happened subsequently to improve the situation. The previous Government introduced the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill based largely on the recommendations of the 1988 Working Group Report and a De Factos Relationships (Property) Bill. The bills were referred to the Government Administration Committee for consideration. Work on the De Factos Bill was deferred pending consideration of submissions on the Ministry of Justice's discussion paper entitled Same-sex Couples and the Law which was released in August 1999. I note the moves by my colleague, the Justice Minister, Phil Goff while in Opposition to extend the De Factos Bill to include same sex couples."

"Frankly it is time this continuing impasse of deferral was resolved one way or another. The weight of recent submissions gives a clear guide on the need for reform in this area to allow sensible protections for those in de facto relationships who wish to use them," said Margaret Wilson.

It is intended the issue be dealt with as an Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) attached to the Matrimonial Property Bill. If passed by the Parliament the new measures would come into effect on 1 July 2001.

" The Prime Minister has determined there should be a free vote in the Parliament on this Government's moves. She has indicated broad support from within the Coalition and support in principle from the Greens. There will be members of other parties in the Parliament I would hope who will also acknowledge the worth of determining this issue by giving it their support in the current session."

"The long time line through to implementation is to allow a full public information campaign to be conducted so those in relationships can know with greater certainty just what their legal rights and obligations might be under the new regime. Couples seem often in considerable ignorance of these matters when entering or leaving a relationship. Accurate information is essential and the Government can play an assisting role in this area."

"This is an issue surely whose time has come. New Zealand now lags behind comparable nations in its provision for end of relationship property settlements.
I see no advantage to anyone that the present unsatisfactory situation continues."


ends

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