Break-up law revamp given the thumbs-up

A child psychologist is throwing her weight behind proposed law changes when parents break up.

Giving the primary caregiver the right to stay in the family home for a while after they separate is on the Law Commission's recommendation list.

Other recommendations up for public discussion include:

  • if one parent owned the home before the relationship, they get to keep the house; only the capital gains are split 50-50
  • the parent that sacrificed their career for the relationship should be entitled to a share of their ex-partner's earnings for a limited period after they split
  • having the rules apply to any marriage, civil union or de facto relationship lasting at least three years, unless there's a contract saying otherwise.

Giving the primary caregiver the right to stay in the home "indicates that the child's needs are being noticed as paramount, and that the child's best interests are being put forward", says child psychologist Emma Woodward.

She says life needs to feel as normal as possible for any children caught up in the break-up.

"Going to the same school, going to the same clubs, access to grandparents - all of those things mean life is safe and predictable, even though the parents are separating," she told Newshub.

"Dividing property when relationships end is often a challenging task, and one which typically comes at a time of emotional upheaval," said the Law Commission's Helen McQueen.

"Partners should be helped at this time by a law that is clear and that accords with what most New Zealanders would think is fair.

"We have developed a package of reforms that we think reflects those expectations and updates the law for contemporary New Zealand."

The current laws regarding break-ups are 42 years old. The Law Commission's full paper can be read here.

Submissions close December 14, and the final report will be issued next year.