Strong v Gross [2020] NZFC 8075

Published 03 December 2021

Application for division of relationship property — misconduct of one party — gambling — gross and palpable — significantly affect extent or value — spousal maintenance — injunction — restraint of assets — discontinuance — Evidence Act 2006, s 9 — Property (Relationships) Act 1976, ss 18A, 18C, 31 & 33 — Hewson v Deans [2020] NZHC 1465 — MTS v GRW [2012] NZFC 7209 — Vaughan v Vaughan (1992) 9 FRNZ 339 (DC). The applicant sought distribution of the parties' relationship property. She had also sought final spousal maintenance (having been granted interim maintenance) and an interim injunction to restrain assets, but these two applications were discontinued. The parties had been married for some 20 years and there were no children of the marriage. The applicant claimed, pursuant to s 18A of the Property (Relationships) Act, that the respondent had engaged in gambling of relationship assets without her consent. In considering the application, the Judge noted that this provision had a very high threshold for misconduct. The conduct must be "gross and palpable" and it must significantly affect the extent or value of relationship property. Case law supported the proposition that gambling could constitute gross and palpable misconduct. Here, the relationship property pool was modest and bank account statements clearly showed that the respondent had gambled away a total of $43,315.86. The Judge concluded that this was a case where the high threshold of s 18A was met. The Judge made orders that the bank accounts, student loan and other debts were to remain separate property of the person whose name they were in; that the family chattels were the separate property of the person in possession; that the business was the separate property of the respondent; and that the KiwiSaver account in the name of the respondent was the separate property of the applicant. The Judge also ordered that the respondent pay the applicant $14,802.92. Judgment Date: 15 September 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *