Saunders v Sloan [2020] NZFC 3453

Published 01 October 2020

Reserved judgment — relationship property division — post-separation contributions — qualifying contributions — occupation rent — Property (Relationships) Act 1976, ss 1N, 18, 18B & 33 — E v G HC Wellington CIV-2005-485-1895, 18 May 2006 — Griffiths v Griffiths [2012] NZFLR 327 — Caie v Caie FC Auckland FAM-2009-057-000186 — Burrell v Burrell [2016] NZFC 4029 — Fischbach v Bonnar [2002] NZFLR 705. This was a hearing to determine the remaining issues of property division between the parties. The parties had been in a relationship and married for almost 19 years, had two teenage children together, and had been separated for almost nine years. The issues for determination all related to recognition of post-separation contributions: the mortgage payments made by the respondent; the benefit of the respondent remaining in the family home after separation; the parties' work in readying the family home for sale; and whether any other post-separation contributions should be recognised. At separation, the parties had agreed that the respondent mother would remain in the family home with the young children and continue paying off the mortgage on the property. The applicant father moved into rental accommodation, paying $50 less per week in rent than the mother was paying in servicing the mortgage, insurance and rates. Both parties had contributed to making the home ready for sale, and the Judge therefore did not consider it just to compensate the respondent for this. It was submitted on behalf of the applicant that he ought to be compensated for leaving equity in the family home, but the Judge considered the fact that the respondent was paying more than the applicant in weekly costs, which amounted to around $22,100 over the period since separation. Furthermore, the parties had agreed to delay sale until work had been completed. At completion, the applicant suggested putting the property on the market, which the respondent did not wish to do. The applicant then filed these proceedings. At the date of hearing the net sale proceeds of the house, totaling $285,841, were held in a trust account. The Judge considered it reasonable to compensate the applicant for post-separation contribution for equity left in the home from the time of the applicant giving notice and the date of hearing, and made an award based on the interest on his half-share in the equity at 5 per cent for a period of 15 months. Further adjustments were made to amounts relating to the joint payment of bills and funds borrowed for the building work. The Judge ordered that the proceeds of sale would be divided equally between the parties subject to adjustments for the post-separation contributions, which resulted in the applicant being required to pay the respondent $19,058,75 from his half share. The Judge suggested that costs should lie where they fell. Judgment Date: 3 June 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *