Porter v Porter [2019] NZFC 1202

Published 25 March 2021

Interim spousal maintenance — relationship property division — trust — legal costs — reduction in value of assets — Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 82 & 182 — Family Court Rules 2002, r 52D — Property (Relationships) Act 1976, ss 44 & 44C — Clayton v Clayton FC Rotorua FAM-2007-063-652, 2 July 2008 — B v B [2008] NZFLR 789 — C v G [2010] NZCA 128. The applicant wife sought interim spousal maintenance pending final resolution of the parties' substantive relationship property division issues. The parties had been married for 17 years, had two children and had structured their relationship in a "traditional" manner with the wife looking after the household and children while the respondent husband ran a business and brought in income. Section 82 of the Family Proceedings Act (the Act) provides for interim spousal maintenance to be made in favour of a party who has inadequate means to meet their current circumstances. From the end of their relationship in 2015 the husband had paid maintenance of $1200 per week and $8000 per month for expenses. The wife wanted this arrangement to continue and for the husband to contribute $12,000 per month for her legal costs. The husband wanted to reduce maintenance payments to $500 and for any legal costs to be taken out of the wife's relationship property pool by an interim distribution. The husband earned $1 million a year and all of the relationship property (estimated at over $7 million) was in trust that he appeared to control. Instead of resolving the relationship property division the husband had also purchased a $10 million property in 2018. The wife believed he was delaying and felt she was unable to move on from the relationship and become independent due to his actions. The husband wanted to reduce payments as he had sought an export financial report that stated a share transaction made 10 years ago may be invalid, which would reduce his property pool significantly. As the husband's argument was speculative, the Judge refused to reduce the payments. It also meant the wife's legal costs increased as she would need to to seek expert advice. The husband had the ability to pay the interim maintenance and case law supported legal costs being included in these payments. The wife's application was granted. Judgment Date: 20 March 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *