Law Commission recommends sweeping changes to divorce laws

The Law Commission has come up with some proposals to revamp the 42-year-old law governing divorce, one that currently says split the assets in half.

The Commission said the family home should no longer always be split 50-50. If for example one partner owned the home before the relationship started, then only the increase in its value during the relationship should be shared.

Children should be given greater importance, including giving the main caregiver the right to stay with the children in the family home for a while after the couple separates.

In certain cases, like where there are children or a couple's been together for 10 years, there should be a time after the split when the couple must share incomes so no-one is unfairly disadvantaged. 

The Commission even recommends funding support people in the community to help divorcing couples and explain the new law to them.

"NZ families and the way we organise our relationship is very different to the way it was in 1976," Commissioner Helen McQueen said.

Family has become the focus, in a decade long relationship involving children and sacrificed careers household income should be shared for up to five years, after the split. 

Cmmr McQueen said the new rules, especially keeping children in the family home, can maintain normality after divorce.

'That would allow children to stay in home go to school use to going to, still maintain contacts with friends and family," she said.

Divorce lawyers say there's potential to impact thousands of families. 

"I think the devil is in the detail as to whether they're more fair or now, we will have to see what other information we have to see how it's going to work," said lawyer Jeremy Sutton.

That won't come until next year when the Law Commission publishes its final report, to go before the Government which will ultimately decide the next step.